Sunday Sermon for September 21, 2014, 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 first reading today Isaiah cries out to all of the people that they are to seek the Lord while He may be found. This becomes extremely important to us because Scripture speaks of the possibility of the Lord coming to a soul and, being rejected, does not return again in that singular manner. Of course, our Lord will accept anyone who comes to Him at any time, but if we refuse to cooperate with the grace when it is present, chances are that we may not recognize the grace when we begin to seek for something beyond ourselves.
I trust that most people that are raised in this society that teaches them to be self centered will eventually realize that focusing on oneself is dull and empty. I know that narcissists think that the only topic that is interesting is themselves, but it is really of little interest to anyone else.
None of us is going to find any true fulfillment within our own self. Even the narcissists will have to admit that seeking only the self not only fails to fulfill, but it is ultimately a dead end road. Remember that there was one who originally took his focus off of God and placed it on himself. Satan has not stopped doing this and he is the most miserable of all creatures. All who have joined him in eternity have also joined him in this exercise of futility and they are all miserable.
Seeking the self not only leads to despair in this life, but it leads to an eternity where nothing worse can be considered: looking at yourself forever. At least here there may be a few people we can try to impress, but there everyone will be caught up in their own self, so there will be no one to impress.
If you consider yourself and realize that you are, to whatever degree, guilty of this same kind of self focus, it is never too late to change. In the Gospel today our Lord gives the same reward to those who joined the work force at the end of the day and to those who labored hard the whole day long. Heaven is open for anyone who is willing to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord.
Someone might respond that it was said above that we might not recognize the grace when it is offered. If you are beginning to see your own selfishness and your need for something beyond yourself and beyond what this world has to offer, this is grace at work right now. If you are already seeking Jesus, then the grace may be present for you to speak to others about Him. There is no shortage of selfish people in this world, so there is not shortage of opportunity to bear witness to the Lord.
For those who are already converted to the Lord, we have to ask ourselves whether we can say with St. Paul that God will be magnified in our bodies whether we live or die. I have often reflected on this when considering our Lady’s Magnificat. She proclaimed that her soul magnified the Lord; most of us who have to admit that we might reduce the Lord rather than magnify Him. It is easy to say that our Lady was perfect, so God could be magnified in her. But St. Paul declares himself to be the worst of all and still says that God will be magnified in Him.
If St. Paul is the worst, then we have to be a little higher than that. If God can be magnified in the worst sinner, then He can be magnified in one whose sins are not quite as bad. This means that if we have accepted the invitation of the Lord and have gone out to His vineyard, we cannot sit around idle. We have to be seeking to serve the Lord and His people.
This means that for us too, we still have to seek the Lord while He is near. We want to grow closer to Him and be more united with Him. Only when He can shine through us can we say that He is being magnified in us. Do we live Godly lives? Do we practice the virtues in our interactions with others? Is charity always the motivating factor in our decisions?
Unless we become more like Jesus, we cannot magnify Him. For those caught in their selfishness, He is calling you beyond yourself and to Himself. For those in the state of Grace, He is nearer to you than you are to yourself. Enter into the depth of your soul and find Him there; focus on Him, not on yourself. Seize the grace, be transformed, and magnify the Lord.
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.