By Fr. Joe Uecker, C.PP.S.
To better understand our readings for today, we ought to go back a few weeks.
Three weeks ago, you recall Jesus telling the story of the workers hired at various hours, but all receiving the same pay. The leaders of Israel do not understand.
Two weeks ago, Jesus told the story of the two sons: one said yes but did not go to work. The other said no but changed his mind and worked. Even with Jesus saying that the prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the Reign of God before the leaders, they did not repent.
Last week we heard Jesus tell the story of the owner who sent servants to get the rent from the vineyard. They mistreated and killed the servants, and even the son of the owner. So, Jesus tells them that the Reign of God will be taken from them and given to those who will produce fruit.
Jesus has been trying to tell the leaders of Israel that they need to change and to think more like God thinks:
- to be generous and rejoice at the good fortune of others
- to be able to turn from evil and do good and to forgive when others repent
- to realize that just belonging to God’s people is no guarantee
- and to know that just showing up is not enough. God wants our good works and God wants us to be messengers of the Reign of God.
The operative word here is change. Change is not easy. In my experience, the only people who like change are wet babies.
If we look at our first reading, Isaiah tells us God has chosen the Jewish people to be messengers of the Good News. “On this mountain” is Isaiah’s name for Jerusalem, the people of God.
Notice how Isaiah sees Israel as the center of God’s activity. God is using Israel as messenger of the Good News for all the nations.
God now uses us to share the Good News. At least God wants to use us. If you ask people why we are baptized, most people will say “So that I can go to heaven.” That can sound rather selfish: “So that I can go to heaven.” Would it not show a greater concern for others to say: “I am baptized so that God can use me as an instrument of Good News to others.” But in our self-centered culture, we don’t always think that way.
I’ve said this often, but I am not convinced that many people believe it. If they did believe it, why would the celebration of the sacraments of initiation—baptism, confirmation, Eucharist—so often be the end of involvement in the Church rather than the beginning? It often happens that once a person has received these three sacraments, it is “Adios, see you later, maybe when I want to get married,” rather than “Okay, now I’m ready to be sent out to serve.”
A man goes to the police academy and spends a good bit of time studying and practicing. He passes the tests and he is drives around with an experienced officer. Then comes the day of his graduation. His wife is there to pin his badge on him. Everyone congratulates him. The next day he tells the chief: “Thanks for everything. It’s been good to be with you. I wish you all good luck. You won’t be seeing me around anymore.”
We would say he is crazy; yet that happens in the Church all too often.
Do you see how different our Church would be if we lived our baptism each day instead of considering it just as our ticket to heaven?
- We would not hesitate to contact someone we haven’t seen at Mass lately.
- We would ask them if there is any way we could help them.
- We would gently encourage young people to hold off till marriage before having sex.
- And on and on.
One might well ask: But isn’t it important to think about going to heaven? It is. But that is a result. If we live our baptism, if we are messengers of the Good News of Jesus. Then when we die, we will not have to worry about going to heaven. Jesus will welcome us with open arms: “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”
By being concerned about others more than ourselves, we will gain entrance into the heavenly banquet feast. Others will thank us for having shared the Good News with them, and we will be assured of having our wedding garment.
Blessed are those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Fr. Joe Uecker, C.PP.S., has spent over 40 years in ministry in the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas. He served as pastor in San Angelo, Sweetwater, Abilene and Odessa. Since retiring in 2011, he continues to live in Odessa.