25th Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
Home Depot at dawn on a Saturday morning. Home Depot or Lowe’s. I don’t know if it’s like this around here, but in Lexington it surely is. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in even bigger cities – Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Washington DC – it’s the same there, too. At dawn on a Saturday morning, there’s usually a gathering of folks looking for work.
Back before I went to seminary, the “going rate” was half a day’s wages for a full day’s work. There was a lot of fear and anxiety among those hunting for work. Would there be enough work to go around? Would the work provide enough pay? I’ve known some folks who had to work odd jobs for a living – because of their backgrounds or mistakes they’d made in the past – some because of mistakes they were making in their present. But the fears and anxieties seemed to be the same, and to go even deeper than wondering if there’d be enough for food and shelter. Is this all life really comes down to – having to scrape just to make do? Is this all I’m worth? Why do some out there seem to get all the breaks and live a better life than I get to live? Do I matter to anyone? Where do I fit in?
It’s easy for us to look at this reality and shape it up as an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ thing. Even those who care about them, want to see something done to make life better for them. Here we are – working jobs – getting an education – even if we’re struggling, we’re getting by. But them – life’s hard for them. Some of us think it’s their fault – they wouldn’t have come here if they’d get jobs; if they’d overcome life’s challenges. Some of us have great compassion for them – we should help them, we should reach out to them. But don’t you see – both of those perspectives leave the world divided into ‘us’ vs. ‘them’.
Here’s the kicker, folks. We are them. There’s no them, actually – only us. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we’re all standing outside the Home Depot at dawn on Saturday morning…
The Kingdom of God is like a landowner who went out…to hire laborers for his vineyard. And what does this parable tell us about this landowner?
Well…there’s enough work to go around, and this landowner wants to get everyone busy. Even the “johnny-come-latelys’. In fact, this landowner is so eager to get everyone busy in the vineyard, he comes looking all day – not just at dawn. And he’s not just looking for the eager and ready. No – he seeks out the ‘idle’ and the just ‘standing around’ and says, “You, too go into my vineyard.”
That sounds a little bit like something we said a few weeks ago, doesn’t it? Whoever you are, however you are, you are welcome here. But let me take that a step farther. Whoever you are, and however you are, you are welcome here – and we need you to get busy.
We haven’t been able to kick off our Children’s Liturgy of the Word yet this year because we don’t have enough volunteers who are willing to help make it happen. Our parish Service Committee is struggling to get off the ground and find folks to help plan, lead, and guide our parish’s efforts to serve one another and the community around us. Our capital project still only has about 50% of our parishioners participating – half of us doing the work that will benefit us all. What if the rest of us who haven’t contributed yet made a $200 pledge to be paid over the next 5 months at $10/week? What if our participation in this effort grew to 100%?
Hmmm… Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fat guy dressed in fancy clothes going out around 4:15 on Saturday evening, and again at 8:15 on Sunday morning, and yet again at 11:15 on Sunday morning, and saying, “You, too, go into the vineyard – there’s room for more and we need you.”
Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven in this time and place is a little like a pastor saying there’s enough work in the vineyard of our parish that there’s something for everyone to do, and we’re not getting it done until everyone finds the work they’re cut out to do?
Over the next several months, there’s going to be enough work and ministry around our parish that it will seem as busy as the vineyard in today’s parable. Over the next several months, there’s going to be talk of how to get involved in our family of faith so that we can all become joyful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, empowered by the Eucharist, strengthened by the sacraments, eager to live life for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls. It’s going to look and sound like I’m spending my days dreaming up stuff for folks to do to get involved in the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church in Boyle County, Kentucky. Some of you are going to think I won’t be happy until all of us are involved in some way other than coming to Mass on the weekend.
Maybe that’s because I’m convinced that we’re all like those folks I used to visit at dawn on Saturday mornings. Maybe it’s because I know that we’re – all of us – just like them, deep down wondering: Is this all life really comes down to? Is this all I’m worth? Do I matter to anyone? Where do I fit in? And I know the only real answers come from getting involved. And maybe – just maybe – it’s because the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who goes out all day every day trying to find laborers for his vineyard, because getting ‘hired on’ – finding one’s place in the work – and doing our share in the vineyard is what it’s all about.