This month has been another difficult month for our nation
as millions of people have been evacuated from
their homes, thousands have died,
and homes, businesses and infrastructures have been lost
in the wake of the destructive paths of Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita.
Our hearts go out to our sisters and brothers in need
and all those who mourn the loss of loved ones
and those who are struck down by the loss of
security, a home and livelihood.
Yet, in the midst of so much destruction and loss,
there is to be found signs of hope found in the countless
acts of kindness, generosity, and compassion evidenced
in the midst of so much disaster and ruin.
I think of the thousands of un-named firefighters, police,
medical personnel, rescue workers,
members of the national guard,
and others who risk their lives for the welfare
and safety of others.
I think of the story I heard on National Public Radio
of the Congregation of Women Religious
in New Orleans who staff a nursing home for
the elderly and the infirm.
These courageous women remained at the nursing home
with their residents throughout the hurricane.
They did not abandon them.
They carried their residents to the second floor when their
nursing facility began to flood
and held their residents in their arms throughout the storm.
These examples of our fellow citizens, our sisters and brothers,
and so many others who have responded
to those in need in the wake of the recent hurricanes
stand as important witnesses for us,
especially in light of our gospel.
Today’s gospel from Matthew asks us to reflect upon
Jesus’ call to each of us to follow him,
and, more importantly, our response to Jesus’ call.
Jesus offers us the parable of the father who asks his two sons
to go out and work in his vineyard,
the vineyard of God’s reign.
The first son, who rudely tells his father
that he doesn’t feel like working,
but then does work after all,
stands for the tax collectors and prostitutes.
- The daily life of the tax collectors (those who the Jews despised for taking money from them and giving it to an alien power) and the prostitutes (those considered
immoral and often sold their services to the Roman soldiers)
(They) seemed to be saying “No” to God,
but when they heard John preach about conversion,
they changed their minds and lifestyle.
The second son, on the other hand, tells the father
what he wants to hear and does nothing,
or far worse, turns to iniquity and does not do what his father asks.
- Jesus intends for the second son to represent the
Temple hierarchy and other leaders
who look as though they are doing God’s will,
worshiping in the Temple and keeping up appearances;
but they refused to adhere to John’s call to work in the vineyard of the Lord.
Jesus, of course, is asking the Temple leaders and each one
of us if we are just keeping up appearances
or are we truly following the will of God in our lives?
How are we responding to God’s call?
Most likely, we each embody both sons in Jesus’ parable.
On our best days, we truly do make every effort to
listen to God and respond to his call,
and on our worst days we often fall deaf to the Lord’s
call in our lives.
The good news is that our loving God is always calling us
to himself; he is always calling us to conversion....
Jesus always offers us the opportunity to change-for-the-better, to make a new start.
If we listen to Jesus calling to us,
we can hear him offering to us what the first son
in the gospel received: a chance to change our minds
and follow Christ more nearly in our lives.
In order to listen and faithfully respond
to God’s call in our lives,
St. Paul tells us the way we are to follow.
We are to model our lives after Christ’s
Paul tells us to “Put on Christ”,
that is, put on the attitude of Christ
by offering ourselves as a gift to others.
Paul captures the “attitude of Christ” by quoting
to the Philippians what scripture scholars
argue to be a very early liturgical hymn
(that even predates Paul).
This hymn describes for us Christ Jesus’
self-emptying/self-giving as a response to
being loved by the Father and loving us.
The Son of God offers himself to us as a saving
God creates us each in his image and likeness.
For Christians, the image of God is Jesus.
We are called to live the life of Christ,
to put on Christ,
offering ourselves in love for others.
What strikes us about those who risked their lives
for the sake of others in the wake of the
should be that they model what it means to be
Christs for our world.
Through baptism and Eucharist
it is WE who are to be transformed to become Christ
for one another,
and a sign to the world of Christ’s presence
in our midst.
Christ’s holy word and his Eucharist are the food
that makes that change/transformation
for the better possible.
There are small opportunities to choose to follow
Christ placed before us each and every day.
Strengthened by God’s holy word and this Eucharist,
may we have the strength and the courage to say
“Yes” today and everyday to Christ in our lives.