Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us regarding the matter of our responsibility as Christians, to do the will of God and to follow Him, and to respond to the call which He had made to each one of us, in our various vocations and calling in life. To all of us God has given the gifts and opportunities, the responsibilities and the abilities to do His will, whenever and wherever He requires of us. However, just as we heard in our readings today, we have not always been obedient or committed to our calling.
In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord rebuking the leaders and elders of His people, the so-called shepherds of Israel, who have not followed their duties and obligations as they should have. The Lord rebuked those people because they had neglected their duties, as they sought to gain advantage for themselves, fattening and enriching themselves from their manipulation of others, from their extortions, the abuse and misuse of their authority and power. As such the Lord harshly rebuked those people who had not obeyed His will and misled the people down the wrong path.
Thus were the actions of the leaders, the kings and the nobles and all those false prophets and priests of Baal, the priests serving the pagan idols, all those who brought the people down the wrong path, as they sought worldly power and glory, and they gained what they wanted at the expense of their souls. They faced their consequences and judgment, and as the Lord said, they were removed from their positions and they would not corrupt the people of God again. The old kingdoms of Israel and Judah were no more and the Lord had wrested back control over His people from those irresponsible leaders.
He called on all the people to follow Him once again, and embrace His love and mercy. God has always looked kindly upon them and wanted to forgive them and bring them back into His presence. However, time and again, it was often the people themselves who were stubborn and resistant to the Lord’s efforts in reaching out to them. They hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord and as a result, they kept on distancing themselves away from God and they kept on delaying and dragging their feet in the journey towards the Lord. As long as their hearts and minds were not set on the Lord, they would remain far away from Him and they would likely remain lost from Him.
Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the parable of the workers, in which a vineyard owner went out to seek for workers, calling and gathering all whom he could find along the way, and making them to work in his vineyard. Some responded to his calls early while others only responded right up to the last hour. In the end, all of them received the same pay and remuneration, as part of what they had agreed with the vineyard owner as part of their work. It was then that those who were called early then were unhappy because they had responded early to the call and therefore expected better pay than those who joined the work last.
This parable in fact highlighted the nature of the Lord’s calling upon each one of us. As God has patiently reached out to us and calling us throughout, we have been given many opportunities to return to Him. However, unfortunately, many of us delayed in answering Him and waited and waited before finally responding to Him. Nonetheless, as we heard the vineyard master doing, the Lord has always been patient in reaching out to us and seeking us to return to Him, and once we have embraced Him, His salvation and accepted Him wholeheartedly as our Lord and Saviour, the reward mentioned in the parable refers to the gift of eternal life and true joy with God.
Then, we also must heed the way that those who had started work earlier and endeavour not to behave the way they did. This refers to some of our attitudes as Christians in being elitist and self-righteous, thinking that we are better and more deserving of God’s grace than others simply because we have answered His call earlier, or that we have mostly kept His Law and commandments throughout our lives, and therefore we tend to look down on those whom we deem to be less worthy than we are, or think that they are more sinful, wicked and less deserving of God’s grace and love than us.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the same prideful and arrogant attitudes which those shepherds rebuked by the Lord, the leaders and elders of the Israelites who had misled the people of God, had in the past. It was their pride, ego and arrogance that had led them to be selfish and wicked, often perhaps without them even realising that. Unfortunately, that led to people being misguided or being turned away further from the Lord. Now, each one of us as Christians have the same calling and obligation to be shepherds and guides for one another, to be inspiration and role model in faith and life for our fellow brothers and sisters.
That means, each and every one of us should be warm and welcoming in our attitudes, in our interactions and approach to one another. All of us should nurture a loving and vibrant Christian community in our homes, in our society and elsewhere, and do our very best to live our lives in accordance to the path that the Lord had shown us. Otherwise, if our lives do not reflect our faith and our actions scandalises that faith and the Lord’s Holy Name, then in the end, the same rebuke and judgment of the Lord, the same consequences that the false shepherds of Israel had suffered, will be directed to us as well.
May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us all, and may He empower us to live ever more worthily in His presence, so that we may be good role models and examples for one another, at all times. Amen.