Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
In the agrarian culture of his time, those who heard Jesus’ parable of the workers and the vineyard understood the experience of those asked to work in the landowner’s vineyard. They knew that those being recruited were most likely day laborers who needed to find work every day so that they and their families could survive. They understood that the workers were being asked to do hard difficult work: picking grapes, lifting and carrying heavy baskets, separating the ripe grapes from the leaves and overripe grapes by hand, and extracting the grape juice from the grapes. The workers knew they would work long, hard hours and they expected a fair wage. What they did not expect was a landowner who would pay them a wage not based on their work hours or performance, but on their human dignity and need. They expected a just landlord, but they discovered a generous one. How does this parable speak to us today? How do we understand it? Where is the vineyard and what is its work today? What are the wages we expect? What kind of landowner do we work for?
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, The Care of Our Common Home, Pope Francis reminds us that the vineyard under our care is the world and our relationships with all creatures. It is the Kingdom of God planted in the midst of our lives by Jesus who tells us to seek it first. The work of this vineyard is difficult. It involves not only the care of earth, wind, sky, and sea, it also includes the care of every creature, every child of God. It requires getting beyond our fear of the stranger, the vision that allows us to see the dignity and blessedness of every person, the resistance to evil and prejudice, and the ability to bring the Peace of Christ to a world that has a preference for violence and war. It is the work of encounter, meeting and understanding the other. It is the work of accompaniment, walking together through difficulties and misunderstandings to a reconciliation of differences. It is the work of Christ’s Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
Those who lived around St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in the 1950s often referred to it as the “priest factory,” a place where priests were made. The vineyard in which we work, Our Lady of the Fields, could be known as a “missionary disciple factory.” In this vineyard, it is the Lord who hires us to be his disciples; he strengthens us for the work of evangelization with the Eucharist and his Word. He fills us with wisdom through a lifetime of faith formation, and he sends us into his vineyard, the world, to make disciples of all nations, to bring him to all people. He pays us with the promise to be with us always, and he accompanies us as we journey to the place he has prepared for us. This is the reward for being his missionary disciples.
At the end of each mass, he is there to recruit us for the work of his vineyard. Wherever we go, whatever we do, he calls us to be co-workers in his vineyard as his missionary disciples. It is a work we need to do to thrive eternally.
May God’s Peace be Yours,