We are still 3 days away from the official start to fall but I’d like to offer you a Cornucopia homily, one full of the abundant riches of the Gospel. In other words, I couldn’t decide which area to preach on so you get three things. They are all important, though. First, what is justice? Second, what is the vineyard? Finally, why does the landowner act this way?
“You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.” What is justice?
Many, if not most of us suffer from an inaccurate understanding of justice. We conceive of justice in terms of our rights. In the United States we often think: “I have a right to do what I want, when I want, how I want, whenever I want.” Sometimes this is magnified while we’re in college. If justice were only concerned with our rights, then our we would eventually run afoul of each other.
Justice is most properly about our obligation to others. If you want to be a man or woman of justice, it isn’t that you are concerned about your rights, or their rights, it is that you are first concerned about your obligations. What do I owe to my neighbor, my friends and family? What do I owe to the stranger I’ve never met? Justice is expressed in several ways: divine justice, personal justice, and social justice.
Divine justice- what do I owe God? My worship, my gratitude, often represented by material goods. It’s interesting when college students can afford $40 a week on recreational drinking but $0 a week on God. Personal justice- what do I owe other people? This obligation to other people isn’t simply to people I know or like but to everyone. Social justice- what do I owe society? We see this in taxes and civic involvement, like informed voting. Yes, that means you sin when you are not an informed voter. We could go more indepth but that is an appetizer on the teachings of justice.
“He sent them into his vineyard.”
What is the vineyard in today’s Gospel? This landowner is very concerned about his vineyard and he obviously wants it to be well stocked with laborers. If we look at other stories about vineyards, then we can find a good answer. The vineyard is the Christian mission field. All of us are called to labor in the Kingdom of Heaven—we’ll hear more about this next Sunday. A bishop I knew used to express this duty like this: “What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?” St. Paul, in our second reading says it this way: “Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Are you asking God how he wants you to work? I remember asking this question as a sophomore in college. My uncle had just died suddenly and I wondered in prayer, “Lord, what do you want me to do for you?” I spent about 18 months on that question while he unfolded his answer. I haven’t been disappointed.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner.”
Who is this landowner and why does he pursue so many workers? He pursues them not simply for the work but because it is better for them to be working with him. The landowner is the Lord God who has pursued us since the first moment of our rebellious sin. Going back to Genesis we know that from the first moment of our sin, God asked after us and wanted to bring us back to himself. God is always calling each and every human soul to a deeper relationship with him.
It seems that God is much more patient with us than we are with him. We ask God for something once, maybe twice. We might even spend a week in prayer, but then we say: “God doesn’t answer. God doesn’t care.” Yet how patient is God with our sins? Even we who are committed to Christ still sin and he still pursues us. Our reading form Isaiah says: “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” He is always near, like the landowner in the vineyard who goes out frequently to hire laborers.
Jesus Christ, I pray that you will build up a people of justice. People who first strive to reach perfection in personal and divine justice—giving to others and to you what is owed. I pray that you will give us the heart of a laborer. Do not let us think that the work of your Kingdom belongs to someone else. I pray that whatever we do, you will only keep us close to yourself. Separation from you, to be far from you is a fate worse than death. In your mercy and generosity, call to us and grant us the strength to hear and answer.
Cross posted at www.piusxiinewman.com