Working in the vineyard

Posted September 15, 2017 at 12:00 am

I give you a new commandment, says the Lord; love one another as I have loved you (Jn 13:34). 

The 24th and 25th Sundays in Ordinary Time begin the final ten weeks of the liturgical year. The readings of the liturgies signify two realities: forgiveness and compassion. Mercy is seen two-fold: God’s gift of mercy and the faithful’s call to mercy. Compassion is a necessity, enabling one to grow in Christ-like holiness.  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

I am sorry  

These three words place the heart of mercy between souls. The gift of showing mercy and being shown mercy is congruent. This balance of giving and receiving forgiveness exemplifies the authentic gift of self. The reading from the Book of Sirach stresses the importance of letting go of anger toward the one who has caused the pain. Holding on to angers increases the bitterness of the heart, thus blocking the healing graces of God. But how can we be expected to let go of anger when someone inflicted this pain?  

St. Peter, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, asks Jesus how often we are supposed to forgive another. Jesus gives Peter the “perfect number of times …” which equals infinity. God is calling us to limitless forgiveness. Add to this challenge the command to forgive from the heart. Forgiveness is to be rooted in authenticity. This is also challenging. What Jesus is stating is that when we say we are sorry or when we accept an apology we are to mean when we say and say when we mean. It is a REAL apology. It is a REAL forgiveness. Why? Because this is what God does for us every time we sin and express remorse.  

God’s limitless mercy is to be lived out in the hearts of the faithful. When we are truly sorry for our sins, God forgives and then washes the sin away through the sacrament of reconciliation. We are cleansed, fortified and sanctified! Our response is to “go and sin no more.”  

Equality  

The challenge is for us to equally forgive those who hurt us, as God forgives us. Have you apologized for something really huge and not forgiven another over something small? This is an imbalance of love. If we expect to be forgiven, we are expected to be forgiving in ALL matters big and small.  

St. John Paul II, in his encyclical “The Mercy of God (Dives in Misericordia),” explains, “Jesus revealed to us God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”  

Through the love and mercy of Jesus, we become ALIVE, one apology at a time. No longer are we dead to our sins, but through the act of our redeeming Lord we are born into a new way of sharing our faith, hope and JOY in the freedom of forgiveness.  

The necessity of compassion  

The more we forgive, the more we grow in compassion. Our response to the sufferings of others becomes more than a feeling. It becomes an action to rid the person of any strife and share with them the love of God. This generosity of charity comes straight from our creator, who wants only happiness for those who know and love him.  

Some come to know God early in life, some midway through life, and still others at the end of their days. Despite when one enters the “vineyard,” each is equally called to “work in the vineyard,” cultivating the faith and helping produce an abundant harvest. Idle hands carry empty baskets while, working hands carry a full load. God rewards those who cultivate with love. He looks into their hearts and not on their timecard.  

Ask yourself, “Where am I in the vineyard today? Have I shown up for work on early, a little late or at the last minute? How can I cultivate rich harvest for the Lord? How forgiving am I toward my ‘co-workers in the vineyard?’ Am I responding with compassion or pride? Is my forgiveness infinite? What is holding me back from saying ‘I am sorry. Please forgive me.’ Am I loving others as God loves me? Is my faith giving life to others by showing the mercy of Jesus?” 

Dow is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Bla