Reflection on Mass readings for Sept. 24 (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Have you ever misplaced something essential or valuable? A sinking feeling comes and you stop everything else to retrace your steps, looking everywhere, even in places you know you have not touched in a long time. And if you do not find your valued item before you are called away to the next event, your mind most likely will continue the search, even bringing other people into the quest until you can resume in earnest.
Do you remember a time when you really wanted to visit a special place or meet someone famous? You researched the person or place. You looked up images and read what others said about the place or the person. You talked to your family and friends about your hopes, and you saved up and planned every detail, even down to getting yourself looking and feeling your best.
This Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah 55:6-9 opens with, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.” The Gospel from Mt 20:1-16 is about a landowner who goes out several times a day to find and hire laborers for his vineyard.
These readings give us an opportunity to reflect on God’s call to us – to come and work in his vineyard, the Church. He is the landowner who searches us out and gives us the free gift of entering into the Church. He is always offering us the grace to enter into his kingdom, and it is part of the divine mystery why some enter early and others so late in life. The reward for faithfully laboring in Christ’s Church is heaven, no matter the length of time spent laboring.
Some of us may have a difficult time with the generosity the landowner shows to those who only labored a short time, but let’s remember that the first reading reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, and his ways are far better than ours.
God’s generosity may convict us of our own envy, pride, or any other thoughts we may entertain that we are better than another person because of our longer or more diligent labor in his vineyard. But we need to remember that it is not our labor that God is looking for. He is looking to find hearts full of love, generosity and humility that bear good fruit.
Perhaps we could ask ourselves: how grateful are we to receive God’s free gift of grace to belong to God’s vineyard, the Church?
How seriously do we seek the Lord? Every one of us, no matter how long or how well we know, love and serve the Lord, can know, love and serve him more deeply. Do we intentionally take time in our day to stop what we are doing and look for him in a few moments of prayer or spiritual reading (like you are doing when you read this article)?
Our desire to know God more deeply only grows as we begin to pray and build a friendship with Jesus, one that is so real that we can talk with him about our deepest desires – to be more grateful, more humble, more forgiving, more generous.
Enkindling our desire to love his ways even when we do not understand can begin by attending Mass every Sunday. Spending time with our divine friend helps stir up our desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and be united to him. Plan your Sunday around Mass and do something special with your family on that day of the week. It is through receiving Holy Communion that our faith is strengthened and our desire to seek him grows into a steady flame.
If you are a frequent reader of this column, perhaps you are already reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings ahead of time. How about taking that one step deeper by joining a Bible study or listening to podcasts or one of the many apps that help you enter into Scripture more deeply while you drive to and from work?
When we teach others, what we teach becomes our own. This applies to our faith as well. Do your words and actions encourage others to think about God and about the good and beautiful things that lead us to God? Do you bring up your faith in conversation with your friends and those closest to you? If not, consider what is holding you back from sharing your faith, and ask the Lord, as well as someone whose faith is strong, to help you start sharing your faith with others.
The Lord is always seeking you. He desires to give you heaven. Keep seeking Jesus and your heart will find its joy and peace in him, even beginning here on earth.
Sister Immaculata is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, TN. She currently serves at Saint Mary Star of the Sea School in Hampton.