Sunday Sermon for September 18, 2011, the Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a
In the second reading St. Paul states that Christ will be magnified in his (St. Paul’s) body whether he lives or dies. The reason is that if he lives, he is living the life of Christ. If he dies, that means that he can be with Jesus, worship Him and glorify Him for eternity. He certainly recognizes that to die and be with the Lord is the better thing, but he also sees the good that he is able to do for the people on earth and is willing to stay here and continue the work the Lord had begun in him.
For many today there are a few problems with what was just said. Many of us do not live our lives for Christ so we really are not able to say that Christ is being magnified through us. This being the case, neither can we say that if we were to die at this point that we would be assured that we would go to Heaven to be with Jesus. After all, if our lives here are not spent striving to do His will and glorify Him, why would we want to be in Heaven where that is all we will be about?
There is no selfishness in Heaven, there is no glorifying of the self in Heaven and there is no doing of one’s own will in Heaven. This being the case, we can say just the opposite for those who have chosen the unfortunate alternative. Since our time on earth is a time of preparation for eternity, we have to ask ourselves which direction we might be headed if we were to die at this point.
In the first reading God calls to every person through the Prophet Isaiah and tells us to call upon God while He is near. God revealed to St. Faustina that this is a time of mercy when He is near and His graces are abundant. However, He warned that when the time of mercy expires, a time of justice will follow. Undoubtedly the Lord will still be present to accept repentance from those who are willing to humble themselves, but I think we can also say that, for the most part, He will seem pretty distant at that time.
When we look at Scripture and we hear about the events that will happen toward the end of the world (this is not our time) we see something very disconcerting. With each of the plagues that befall humanity we notice that the people refuse to repent; rather, they curse God for the plagues. When we read the first chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans we realize that such stubbornness can happen any time, not just at the end of the world.
This is important because I think that anyone who is able to see and hear needs to admit that it appears that the time of mercy may be drawing quickly to an end and the time of justice seems to be beginning. It is with this in mind that the next lines from the first reading are most apropos today. Isaiah says that the scoundrel is to forsake his ways and the wicked his thoughts. Both are to turn to the Lord for mercy.
Before we point a finger at the wicked and the scoundrels of the world, we need to realize that if we are not living of lives for Christ we also fall into these tragic categories. So, it is to us and to the others that Isaiah says we are to turn to the Lord for mercy, to our God Who is generous in forgiving.
What a profound act of grace and mercy it is just for us to be able to recognize that we are not magnifying the Lord as we should, repent of this and change our lives. The wonder of God’s mercy, as we see in the Gospel, is that those who turn to Him at the last moment receive the same wage as those who have spent their whole lives working for the Lord. Sadly, many of us will look at this the wrong way and, instead of seeing this as God’s mercy toward us, we say something to the effect of “If I get the same wage for converting at the end, then I will wait until the end to convert.”
First of all, this logic is among the wicked thoughts of which Isaiah speaks. Second, it is presumptuous to assume that if we say “no” throughout our lives, especially when we knew better, that we will suddenly say “yes” at the end. Thirdly, it fails to recognize that it is an absolute privilege to serve the Lord. Don’t put it off, call on the Lord now, while He is near!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.