Note: Fr. Ed’s homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time is now available online! Click here to listen.
“My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside….”
The parables in the first reading and the Gospel both begin in the same way, describing how the Holy One of Israel created a vineyard for Himself. But in both cases, things went wrong, bad choices were made, and the end result was that the vineyard was now alienated from its master, its owner, and creator.
Several things to note about these parables: God is the origin, the source of the vineyard; God provided everything that the vineyard needed; choices were made that disrupted the harmony between His vineyard and Him. But the choices that were made were not the only ones that could have been made.
We are now that vineyard, created by Him, endowed with gifts and graces by Him, and with a destiny to fulfill in Him! But we face the same choices that were made by the other two vineyards: the choice to serve Him or the choice to do our own thing instead. How do we keep from making the same mistakes others made?
Knowing we are loved
First, we must begin with the sure knowledge that we are loved. The One Who loved us into being is with us, always, every moment of our lives, and He constantly desires a deeper and deeper union with us. How will we respond? Will we live in union with Him, bearing fruit to the praise and glory of His Name? If every major choice we make is anchored in our knowledge and appreciation of His love, we shall remain faithful to His plan for us. And often, when we face really big choices, we have the wisdom we need to lean on Him for grace and help.
Unfortunately, however, we often think that we can handle the little things on our own. When we are tempted to do that, we would do well to bear in mind the Proverb that reminds us that he who disregards the little things will fall little by little.
The constant challenge to those who have walked with the Lord Jesus for an appreciable amount of time is to not fall into the pattern of relying on our own competence and self-reliance instead of choosing to continue to depend on Him. When He says, “Without Me you can do nothing,” it is not limited to the big things; it really admits of no exceptions. Life in the vineyard would be so much simpler and easier if we chose to live in the vineyard in the constant companionship of the King of Kings Who loved us first.
Loving others in the vineyard
As we continue to participate in Alphas and have more and more folks coming to share our life as a result of their Alpha experience, we are placed in the very important role of being able to model for them what it means to live for the Lord Jesus. We can show them how to be faithful members of the vineyard, doing all things in union with the Lord Jesus—the big things and the little things! And, taking a lesson from the approach of Alpha itself, we can be a witness to them of how the King of Kings Himself chooses to be present to them, always welcoming them more deeply into His Kingdom, delighting to be with them, honoring their dignity, making them feel truly welcome. And the best case scenario is that we do the same for each other!
Part of what the Lord Jesus has in mind for all of us at Christ the King is that we would all make concrete choices about how we can better love each other as we share this wondrous vineyard that the Lord Jesus has placed us in. We can honor each other, in our conversations and all our actions, treating each other with more of the respect, dignity, and love that He Himself intends. The lessons that we are learning from Alpha can and must be applied to how we can love each other better. This will always be challenging—when you have related to someone the same way for a long time, changing how we relate, even for the better, will be a challenge. It is not that we have necessarily related badly, but who among us couldn’t learn to love better than we have been? Let’s make this vineyard even more the place of love and respect that He intends! — Fr. Ed