PASSING IT ON! 25th Sunday, Year A
We receive the fruits of what others have worked for. Still others will receive the fruits of what we work for. Receiving what others have worked for can motivate us to be thankful and responsible.
We have received the fruits of our families, our faith tradition, and a two-hundred-year old Constitution which allow us to live in the freest country in the world. Knowing others will benefit or suffer from what we leave behind is an added motivation for us in our life and work. Most want to give back to life what they have received and hopefully even more.
Unless we think of life as past, before we arrived, and future, after we are gone, we are going to think of life as being very unfair. If we are thinking of only the present apart from the past and future, life is going to seem unjust. People who lay down their life for the Church, the country, or their families have a sense of the future and the past. Their own personal lives may be very sacrificial. They are working for people in the future whom why don’t know, but have a concern for.
Times of realizing what we have received and what we can give in the present and leave behind for others in the future are times of special urgency in our life. What is most important to humans, which we have received, such as faith and freedom, the Church, the Gospel, the teachings and values of life, and what is eternal, needs to receive special emphasis in our thanksgiving and concern that it be improved in our life and passed on to others.
Eternal truths, and Eternal Truth that is the Lord, is the best we have received, and the best we can hand on to others. That is what Tradition is, what has been handed down. We pass on the best that we have received. “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near.”
We find ourselves and others have a great urgency for all kinds of things, causes and values. What greater reality could we have a special urgency for than the Lord? Such an urgency leads to forsaking sin, and even sinful thoughts. It leads to turning to God for mercy. To move toward God is to greatly increase our ability to realize the past, the present, and the future. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
St. Paul revealed the great urgency in his life. “For, to me, ‘life’ means Christ; hence dying is so much gain.” At the same time, he had a passion for leaving behind for others Christ and His Gospel. “If, on the other hand, I am to go on living in the flesh, that means productive toil for me, and I do not know which to prefer. I am strongly attracted by both: I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ, for that is the far better thing, yet it is more urgent that I remain alive for your sakes.”
The Gospel account of the owner of the vineyard reveals the apparent “unfairness” of life, if only the present is considered. The owner goes out at all hours and sends workers into the vineyard to work. At the end of the day he pays all of them the same, and he pays those who went into the vineyard at the last hour first. Those who entered late shared in the fruits of those who entered the vineyard earlier. Those who had “borne the heat of the day” benefited others besides themselves.
The parable reveals the Lord’s eternal vision, generosity and love. All of us have entered into the vineyard later than our faith ancestors, who prepared the way for us. Hopefully, we will prepare the way and be willing to work for what will benefit others, so that all will receive the same “wage” of eternal life.
We can trust the Lord and do the work of the Lord’s vineyard knowing we will be rewarded more than justly by the Lord. So we need to respond to those moments of grace which urge us to seek the Lord and do His work with a view to the future. As Pope John XXIII said at age eighty, knowing he had a short time to live, to those who opposed his idea for the Second Vatican Council to renew the Church: “You will say that time is on your side, and it is. But history and eternity are on mine.” Pass on the good you have received!