Sunday, September 21, 2008  The Church: The vineyard of the Lord, the Kingdom of God on Earth. The Church -- the Last Chance

Homily, Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fr. Felix

The Church is the Lord's Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. It is the vineyard today's parable is talking about. The Apostles and all the various church ministries within it are the labor we have been called to accomplish within it to make it a fruitful vineyard.

This parable is about the Church because the background behind it is that the Early Jewish Christians were resentful that the Church was opening doors to gentiles to join as member on equal merit as their fellow Jewish brethren. Their resentment stemmed from the fact that they have been laboring for centuries to follow God's Commandments, and Gentiles are only beginning to adopt the God-fearing way of life. It seems unfair that these late (the Johnny-come-latelies) can be equal sharers of the promises of salvation. They as “Early Birds” should be the ones that catch and eat all the worms.

In response to this flawed human reaction, the Word of God today states that we should always remember that:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

God's thinking is that all nations of all generations are: 

Our human ways of doing things have disparity with God's own ways.

That's the fruit of the Fall of Mankind at the Garden of Eden. From then own Humanity ceased to see eye-to-eye with God.

  • We were all fallen short of God's Glory. Like the laborers in the vineyard, we were all unemployed/jobless/bankrupt. We all depended on the mercy of the landowner (God, in this case).
  • As in the parable, the Landowner took the initiative to go into the streets looking for laborers, in the similar way, God, out of his divine mercy, took the initiative to go out of his way to seek us out. We were all helpless, stranded in the streets. We couldn't employ ourselves, meaning we could not save ourselves.
  • So basically we are not entitled to anything before God, and He is not indebted to us, as these “Early Birds” presumed that all of a sudden they had a claim on God.
  • They would rather consider it favor and grace that they were the first to be employed to begin with. They were privileged.
  • They were privileged to work, at all.
  • And then to be the first to be found and employed, is an added privilege.
  • To be the first to be saved, being God's first choice, is an honor and privilege to be grateful not to be bitter about.
  • The Gentiles could file a complaint as to why they were the last to be considered for salvation.
  • With their fallen human mind, the Israelites see the glass half-empty, instead of seeing it as half-full.
  • The late-comers could equally make a complaint of why they were hired last; why it took so long to be found worthy of the honor to serve/work in the Vineyard. E.g., St. Augustine: “How late have come to know you, O Lord.”
  • Our Salvation is not a right earned. It is a divine loving gift.
  • That is how own salvation comes about: By pure grace and mercy of God, nothing on our part to claim it. It's purely God's initiative.
  • The Church is that vineyard or Kingdom of God into which we have been invited to, each at their respective hour.
  • The Church's presence on Earth is the Real and True Presence of God's own Kingdom. He invites us into it to work for his Kindom

APOLOGETICS:

While I am right here, allow me to point out something that is an error perpetuated by Protestantism. All that has been said so far about how our salvation comes about is true and the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism uphold. But Protestantism stops right here and say,

“Nothing more. No works, are necessary for our salvation. God's Grace is enough. Just our faith is sufficient.”

This position goes contrary to today's Gospel, among many scripture texts. It's almost like saying that God invites us into his vineyard, the Church, and that's the end of the story. You have heard Our Lord calling out, “The harvest is great, so pray to your master to send more laborers.”

A laborer is somebody who works. It's not enough to just be guests in the Kingdom of Heaven. The landowner went out seeking laborers, not guests. There are times the kingdom of God is symbolized as the Wedding Feast where guests come just to sit at table and eat. But the Kingdom of Heaven/God is also a labor-intensive vineyard.

Just imagine if those employees were just happy and content to be employed, get into the Vineyard and sit and do nothing. Would the landowner have payed them their agreed wage?

I know that God is full of surprises, and his ways are far above our own thinking, but it does not make sense that you would be employed for the sake of being employed, with no productivity expected, with/having no expectations on our part, and with no wage contingent upon work in the agreement.

E.g., The Parable of Talents: Even there the Kingdom of Heaven is like working to produce more talents out of those God gratuitously gives us.

If you can know this, you will know the #1 error dominating Protestantism.

The implications of this error, is that you don't have to do anything to be saved. You can idle if you want to. Work if you want to. So, those who do something, and those who do not do anything, it makes no difference, whichever way you choose. The consequence of your salvation doesn't change.

Which backs the question: Why did the apostles feel the need to be doing something even at the pain of martyrdom, if doing anything (works) did not have any salvation merits? If idleness/laziness and hard-work in matters of faith and morals make no difference to our salvation outcome.

In the Parable, the landowner renounces these men's “Idleness”.

“Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.” “Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?”

Idling is not a virtue. If it were, the landowner would not have needed laborers to go into his vineyard.  There is a difference between the vineyard and the marketplace. People don't go to the vineyard to idle and pass time.  They do that in the marketplace. If works are not important, there would be no point in removing those men from the marketplace.

They are not hired for their idleness, but for the productivity/labor/work.

If works are not meritorious, then suffering, being thrown into jail, and martyrdom are the lost cause. They are not worthy and noble. No one should feel the need to aspire for them. They should feel the need to avoid them at all costs.

St. Paul who is writing to the Philippians Church from prison shouldn't be wondering which way out of his dilemma. He should not be saying that he is eager for martyrdom so that he may be with Christ for all eternity, because according to Protestantism, it's immaterial whether he dies the martyrs' death or not. So, his only wish should be to get out of prison, not to be prosecuted and beheaded.

But to the contrary, St. Paul is saying that martyrdom would hasten my meeting with Christ, a gain in my opinion. Being set free, on the other hand, means your gain because it means doing more work for your salvation.

APPLICATION

GOD IS IN TOUCH WITH HIS CREATION:

He does not remove himself from their concerns.

He is the provider par excellence

Our World operates on the principle of “The Winner Takes All”.

Our World operates on the principle of “The Fittest Survive”.

Our World operates on the principle of “First come, first serve”.

Our World operates on the principle of “Quid Pro Quo”.

These are very low and earthy.

They are not as far above as the heavens are from the earth.

“As high as the heavens are above the earth,

so high are my ways above your ways

and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

They are miserly forms of thinking.

They come from small minds and small hearts.

The Kingdom of Heaven operate on the Principle of Family.

Parents treat the First Born as equally well as the last-born.

The Early Age Convert is given the same salvation as the deathbed convert.

These are heavenly; Only then would our mindset, our thought patterns match God.

Enlarge your Hearts, Open wide your minds.

Think big.

Shatter the glass ceilings.

Smash the false hopes.

Break records.

Exceed expectations.

Match your thoughts to those of God.

Be of one mind, one heart with Him.

 

 

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