For to me life is Christ, and death is gain (Phil 1:21). With St. Paul, there is no sense of comfortable Christianity, no “Health & Wealth Gospel” or “Prosperity Gospel.” For St. Paul, the Christian faith — the living of the “good news” — is not a Sunday religion or something that is merely social like getting together for a community meal. Faith in Jesus Christ changes everything — so much so that St. Paul writes, I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). Being a Christian entails a radical transformation, out of my comfort zone and out of doing just what I want so that I can transform the world through my belief, my hope, and my life in Jesus Christ.
In the gospel for this Sunday (Mt 20:1-16a), Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who saw people standing idle in the marketplace. We are those who stand about idle in the marketplace. All of us, in some way, are content with lukewarmness, some form of complacency, some desire to just “stand around” in our faith. Maybe our tepidity is not wanting to volunteer our time at church (or at all); maybe we are apathetic toward the rights of the unborn (for those who have no voice) because abortion is such a controversial issue; maybe our lukewarmness is that we habitually miss Sunday Mass for insufficient reasons. Lukewarmness is always a temptation and easy to slip into (even for priests) and we must be aware of the consequences of such an attitude (see Rev 3:16). Nevertheless, God (the landowner) is constantly inviting us to labor in His vineyard. Even if we are late in life (more advanced in years), we can always respond to God’s invitation to labor in His vineyard.
Yes, spreading the gospel in the family and at work is tough, but our efforts do help to build up the kingdom of God in our little area. Yes, standing up for the sanctity of unborn human life in the LifeChain and in other peaceful Pro-Life activism can get you dirty looks and curses, but lives of the innocent can be saved and mothers’ lives can be changed. Yes, Sunday Mass can be inconvenient at times, especially when we have worked hard all week and just want to take it easy, but going to Mass anyway is a recognition that God is the giver of time and should be the aim of our hard work and even of our leisure. Christ is not calling for sleepy, bored Christians. Our parish cannot just be another sleepy, little church! Christ is calling us to work for His kingdom here on earth. And what does He promise? Eternal life — not a place in the clouds sometime in the future — but now. The “Landowner” does not wait to give us a daily wage, but He gives us our daily bread quintessentially in the Mass — Jesus Christ in the Most Blessed Sacrament. And as we leave our church this Sunday to accomplish such a mission, we must follow St. Paul’s instruction to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ (Phil 1:27).
Reflection by Fr. Nolan Lowry, STL, Pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Centerville.