My Dear Friends:
“Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving.” (Isaiah 55:7)
Bringing people home to the Lord is at the core of what we do as a parish community. Last week, the gospel and my homily focused on forgiveness and lifting the burden that comes with holding a grudge. Once we are free from harboring resentment or hate in our hearts towards a brother or sister, then we are truly free to invite others to come home to the Church. But do they truly encounter a home here?
What we hear in today’s gospel is that it doesn’t matter how late you came to the party. What matters is that you came to the party. Yet so many people feel left out when they come to Church. I notice this. Pope Francis notices this. I’ll get back to the Holy Father later. In the gospel, Jesus tells a parable of people that are invited to work in his vineyard at different stages, yet all receive the same wage or the same blessings. Again, it doesn’t matter when in your life you encounter the living Christ as you long as you have that life altering, eternal encounter. Yet many people go through life oblivious to this man called Jesus. This past week, the priests of the Archdiocese gathered for our annual convocation with the Archbishop, and one priest was telling us of something I’ve experience so often, that we walk down the streets with our roman collars on and people don’t know who we are. They look upon us with curiosity, with confusion, and don’t equate the collar with a follower or a priest of Jesus Christ. Yet we try to bring people back home to the Church so that they may experience the same blessings that we enjoy, for all of us are God’s children and heirs to his kingdom.
Last week, I preached about forgiveness and the need to forgive. I am convinced that this is what
people need to hear. They need to experience a forgiving God, and this is where Pope Francis comes in as I alluded earlier. Ten years ago, he was speaking to the Brazilian bishops and pondering on why people leave the Church or don’t come to Church at all. He compared these people to the disciples of Emmaus who left Jerusalem despondent after the death of Christ with no hope in the resurrection. They believed that Christ’s mission was a failure. And maybe people think that about the Church. Pope Francis wonders: “Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.” The workers that started their labor early in the morning were rigid in their thinking and could not comprehend that the owner of the vineyard would give those who started working late the same wage. We need to change our way of thinking and start thinking as God does. Like the owner of the vineyard we need to go out and encounter people where they are. This is why the Holy Father concludes: “We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.”
But the thing is that Christianity is not barren, nor fruitless soil, nor incapable of generating meaning. All of you are here for Mass this weekend because you want to be fed. You want to experience God’s mercy and love and that is what you need to share with your brothers and sisters. The thing is: how do we do it? There is always a restlessness in your pastor’s heart to seek out those who I don’t see every Sunday at Mass. They’re out there. Maybe they come a couple of times a year. Maybe they only come when there’s a big event like a retreat. We are all invited into the Lord’s vineyard. It does not matter what time we get there. The goal is getting there and staying there working for our Lord and with our brothers and sisters. It’s up to us to bring them home. That is how we achieve salvation!
God bless you all,