HOMILY – SEPTEMBER 24
No matter how much we have, no matter how good we’ve got it, our fallen human nature has us bristle when we hear of someone else getting the same thing — or MORE — without, in our minds, earning it or working for it. “Why should THEY get the same amount as those of us who have worked all these hours in the heat of the day?” But if life were based only on comparisons, we would be constantly miserable. As a matter of fact, many people ARE constantly miserable precisely BECAUSE they are always comparing their lot to others, and reckoning that they come up short. Life isn’t fair, they moan. And because God is the author of life, GOD isn’t fair!
It might seem rather childish when put in THOSE terms, but let’s face it: this is how labor union leaders make their money! Tap into the innate unfairness in working conditions, in wages and hours, in who-does-less-for-more, and you’ve got the basic problem all of us see with today’s Gospel. That’s why the Church prefaced that Gospel with the passage from Isaiah in the first reading. Are we really intent on being on the same page with God in drawing others to him and to his Kingdom? After all, the fullness of life in the Kingdom is going to be the fullness of life for all who are saved!
Infant baptism, and a long life of daily sacrifice as a Carmelite nun? Jesus promises eternal life in his Kingdom.
A teenage convert who marries her Catholic sweetheart, has a wonderful marriage and a dozen kids, and is stricken with early onset Alzheimer’s and a painful death in her late 40’s? Jesus promises eternal life in his Kingdom.
A scoundrel who has swindled hundreds out of their life savings, but has a deathbed conversion and dies with the blessing of all the sacraments? Jesus promises eternal life in his Kingdom.
Now, if you’re the least bit upset about all that, are you really on board with Christ, who wants the Gospel proclaimed to ALL people without exception? Have you forgotten that his words on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,” were also prayed FOR YOU? Are you as anxious as the Good Shepherd for the lost and straying sheep, or are you just content to mind your own business — until the straying sheep seem to get more attention than YOU? Yes, friends, the Gospel is full of examples like this. We do have to ask ourselves whether we are as eager about others’ salvation as we are about saving our OWN eternal hides. If salvation becomes simply a matter of “every man for himself,” we are ALL in danger of losing it. After all, the Church is intended to be a COMMUNITY.of believers who are constantly and joyfully welcoming new members into the fold — for THEIR good, not ours.
I’m reminded of the factory worker years ago who showed up at the first union meeting he had ever attended. Being recognized by the chair, he stood up and announced, “Now, look here! I got shorted in my check $50 the last two weeks!”
“We’ve been having problems with payroll accuracy and complaining about it for months,” the union president said. “Where have YOU been when all THAT was going on?”
“Well, sure,” the worker said, “I heard the other guys complaining about it, but hey, this is MY paycheck!”
The real test of our commitment to JUSTICE is like the sincerity of our concern about SALVATION: are we concerned only when it concerns US, or are we truly forgetful of self so that we can rejoice at others’ good fortune and share in it? The lives of the saints make it clear that true holiness consists in part of a complete forgetfulness of self. If we’re constantly pre-occupied with how holy we’re becoming, the focus is too much on ourselves and not enough on Jesus and others. We should rejoice that God is so anxious for our salvation that he’ll leave the light on for us till the very last. Who knows, we might need it ourselves, to find our way home! Lord, have mercy on US!