by Fr. Tommy Lane
It’s never too late. It’s never too late to turn to the Lord. It’s never too late to be welcomed by the Lord. It’s never too late to stop living an aimless life and live a life full of meaning. It’s never too late to leave sin and be welcomed by the mercy of Jesus. It’s never too late to be welcomed by the loving embrace of Jesus. Jesus told the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard that we have just heard (Matt 20:1-16) precisely to teach us that it is never too late to turn to him. It is never too late to receive the grace of Jesus. The Lord continues to go out to the marketplace every hour to invite people to his vineyard.
Those in the parable who complained that they worked hard all day in the heat and received only the same pay as those who worked only for one hour do not reflect our attitude. Their attitude is the attitude of those engaged in economics. Instead for us it is a joy to work in the Lord’s vineyard all day. If we did not work in the Lord’s vineyard we would be missing out on time with the Lord. Instead of grumbling about those who come late to the vineyard, perhaps as late as their deathbed, we feel privileged to work in the Lord’s vineyard. What a joy it is for us also to see people coming to the Lord’s vineyard no matter how late.
One such example was told by Archbishop Fulton Sheen during a Parish Family Retreat. He related an incident that took place when he was ministering as a priest in New York City. He was called urgently to an apartment where a girl named Kitty was dying. It was one of the dirtiest rooms he had seen. He asked her if she would like to make her peace with the Lord. She said she couldn’t because she was the worst girl in New York City. (She didn’t bring in enough money from the streets so her husband poisoned her and she was dying of poisoning.) Fr. Sheen immediately replied that she was not the worst girl in New York City because the worst girl would think she was the best girl. After telling her some of Jesus’ parables she agreed to go to confession. Fr. Sheen anointed her and immediately she was better. She was healed physically and even more importantly she was healed spiritually. After her recovery she became what we might say was an apostle to the people among whom she worked and she brought them to Fr. Sheen. They would say to him, “Father, I am the person Kitty told you about.” Kitty received the mercy of Jesus and became what we might was an apostle of Divine Mercy. (Archbishop Sheen’s talk entitled Confession is available from Keep the Faith.) Jesus told the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt 20:1-16) precisely to teach us that it is never too late to turn to him. It is never too late to receive his grace. It’s never too late to be welcomed by the Lord. It’s never too late to stop living an aimless life and live a life full of meaning. It’s never too late to leave sin and be welcomed by the mercy of Jesus. It is never too late to turn to the Lord. This is also the message from the Lord through Isaiah in our first reading today:
Seek the Lord while he may be found,
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
call him while he is near.
and the wicked man his thoughts;
Let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving (Isa 55:6-7).
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
Once people turn to the Lord, enter his vineyard, no matter how late, they have a profound new joy and meaning in their lives because now they have the Lord in their lives. One example is a young man who wrote in 2002 for the Power to Change campaign in Ireland about giving up drugs after allowing the Lord into his life.
When I go to bed at night, I have a peace in my heart. I have peace in my mind. I can put my head down to sleep and know that I’m going to wake up in the morning with no shame, no guilt and no sin hanging over my life. This is the love, this is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I gave up drugs for ever, I have since had the privilege of leading many drug addicts and other hurting people to a personal relationship with Jesus. For me this demonstrates the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.
St. Paul also found this new life in Jesus after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. In our second reading today, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “For to me life is Christ.” (Phil 1:21) He went on to say that death would be a gain because after death he would be completely with Christ. But even now during his earthly life he can say, “For to me life is Christ.” Two chapters later in this same letter to the Philippians Paul described the wonderful transformation in his life from being a persecutor of the Church to living completely in Christ.
…in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless. Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him (Phil 3:6-9)
The people of Santiago Atitlán discovered this new life in the Lord through their Pastor Blessed Stanley Rother whose beatification this weekend gives us great joy (September 23, 2017). There had not been one vocation to the priesthood from his parish in Guatemala since its foundation in 1547 but there are now (2017) nine priests ordained from that parish since his martyrdom in 1981 and seven are currently preparing for the priesthood in seminary. When one person truly finds the Lord it affects us all. It’s never too late to turn to the Lord. It’s never too late to be welcomed by the Lord. It’s never too late to stop living an aimless life and live a life full of meaning. It’s never too late to leave sin and be welcomed by the mercy of Jesus and his loving embrace. It is never too late to receive the grace of Jesus. Jesus continues to go out to the marketplace every hour to invite people to his vineyard. When we answer his call to enter his vineyard then with Paul we can say, “For to me life is Christ.” (Phil 1:21)
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2017
More Homilies for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday Year A
the last being first: Curé of Ars
stories about positive thinking