Every now and then a familiar passage of Scripture just jumps out at me as if I had never heard it before. I felt like that at this morning’s Mass. Today’s Gospel (Mt 20:1-16) was the story of the vineyard owner who went out several times during the day to hire workers. When it came time to pay the workers, they each received a full day’s wages regardless of how many hours they worked. I can certainly identify with the workers who had worked the entire day. I am sure I would have been right there with them hollering, “That’s not fair!” But in truth, the vineyard owner was free to dispense as much charity as he wanted to. It is not up to the recipients to dictate the extent of the owner’s generosity.
Now that has always been the typical focus of this reading. However, today I heard something new. The vineyard owner did not stand at his gate and issue a mass call for workers. He went out into the town to seek workers. He didn’t just do this once. He did it time after time. The Gospel accounts for five trips to gather laborers. Isn’t that the way God works? He never gives up on us. If we don’t respond to the first call, he gives us another. Then another. Then another. And these are not vague calls from afar. God gets right down into the nitty-gritty of our lives and asks us to follow Him. He doesn’t scold us and ask us why we didn’t hear the first call. He welcomes us whenever and wherever we respond.
I also thought about this as I do my own part to bring the Good News to those around me. Many of the folks with whom I interact, both online and in person, share my frustrations with the struggle for orthodoxy in the Catholic Church. We have journeyed on this path of Faith and climbed a summit we think gives us an enlightened perspective. It is very easy to forget that there are others who have climbed even higher summits and have even greater insights. It is also easy to just stand at our point along the path and yell down to those below to hurry up and get up here. In reality, we need to be like the vineyard owner and go out to meet those who aren’t quite as far along as we are. We need to keep calling and encouraging others to keep climbing. We need to recognize where are brothers and sisters are on their Faith journey and meet them there. It doesn’t do any good to rant and rave about the placement of the Tabernacle and the vessels used for Communion if we don’t first teach about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We can’t expect people to be attending daily Mass and Holy Hours if they don’t even see the need to be at Mass every Sunday. We crawl before we walk and walk before we run.
So today I am praying for the humility to recognize I still have a lot of ground to cover on my Faith journey and also for the patience and generosity to help others along the way.