The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what time of day we entered the field. What matters most is that we get about the work that needs to be done. This parable tells us we all have a calling, a vocation, and we all have a mission. No matter what time of the day we experience the invitation, it is time to get to work. The word vocation derives from the Latin word meaning voice, vocare. The Lord speaks to each one of us and says - You go Into My Vineyard too! He invites us to respond afresh at every age and stage of our life.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - This is National Vocations Week. I thought it was a presented an opportune moment to reflect on the nature of a vocation and the call of every baptized Christian to respond to their own call to follow the voice of the Lord.
Even though I am approaching my 60th birthday, I still vividly remember the days when Father would visit our elementary school classroom at St Matthews School in Dorchester, Massachusetts for the "Vocations Talk". Sincerely, he would look at all of our young faces and tell us we were all called to follow the Lord as priests and nuns - but that few would respond.
Unfortunately, his sincerity - and commendable desire to promote vocations to those beautiful ways of following Jesus Christ - failed to communicate a vital truth confirmed in the Scripture, upheld in the Christian Tradition, and reaffirmed with vigor since the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church.
That truth is that every baptized Christian has a vocation and a role to play in the missionary work of the Church. Every Baptized Christian is called to follow the Lord - and not just once, but repeatedly. Our response to the call can express itself in various ways, states in life and even evolve over a lifetime. However, we are all called into the Vineyard of the Lord.
There is a passage in the Gospel of St Matthew which is helpful for the consideration of vocations and is addressed to all of us:
"Jesus told his disciples this parable: The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off.
"And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
"When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.'
"He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Mt. 20:1-16)
This parable is sometimes used as a framework for discussing principles for labor relations. Certainly it has application in that area of importance. However, today I focus on the missionary and vocational insights which it reveals for each one of us.
Working in the Vineyard is symbolic of our call to live our lives in the Lord, fully participating in the Church - which is His Body - as she continues her mission in the world. It is in the vineyard of the Church that we become equipped to participate in the mission of the Lord in the vineyard of the world.
The Church is a vineyard. The world is a vineyard. We are the workers. The hour is now! The Church has been sent into the world to bring the world into the Church.
The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what time of day we entered the field. What matters most is that we get about the work that needs to be done.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the Church as a vineyard:
"The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing." (CCC # 755)
In explaining the connection between Christ and the Church the Catechism explains:
"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (CCC#845)
The mission of the Church is to bring the world to Jesus Christ. Through the waters of the Baptismal font, every man, woman and child is to be born again into the family of God. The Church is by nature missionary. God wants all men and women to come home to His family.
In December of 1988, on the Feast of the Holy Family, Saint John Paul II issued an apostolic exhortation entitled the "Lay Members of Christ's Faithful" (Christifidelis Laici). Its subtitle reflects its primary message "On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World". It was released after a Synod of Bishops which had gathered to consider the lay vocation.
Saint John Paul used the parable of the workers in the Vineyard as the framework within which to address the lay vocation as a true calling and a true vocation. Here are a few important excerpts:
"The lay members of Christ's Faithful people (Christifideles Laici), are those who form that part of the People of God which might be likened to the laborers in the vineyard mentioned in Matthew's Gospel: "For the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard" (Mt 20:1-2).
"The gospel parable sets before our eyes the Lord's vast vineyard and the multitude of persons, both women and men, who are called and sent forth by him to labor in it. The vineyard is the whole world (cf. Mt 13:38), which is to be transformed according to the plan of God in view of the final coming of the Kingdom of God.
You Go Into My Vineyard Too
"And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too'" (Mt 20:3-4). From that distant day the call of the Lord Jesus "You go into my vineyard too" never fails to resound in the course of history: it is addressed to every person who comes into this world.
"In our times, the Church after Vatican II in a renewed outpouring of the Spirit of Pentecost has come to a more lively awareness of her missionary nature and has listened again to the voice of her Lord who sends her forth into the world as "the universal sacrament of salvation".
"You go too. The call is a concern not only of Pastors, clergy, and men and women religious. The call is addressed to everyone: lay people as well are personally called by the Lord, from whom they receive a mission on behalf of the Church and the world.
"A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.
"We continue in our reading of the gospel parable: "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?'. They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us'. He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too'"( Mt 20:6-7).
"Since the work that awaits everyone in the vineyard of the Lord is so great there is no place for idleness. With even greater urgency the "householder" repeats his invitation: "You go into my vineyard too" The voice of the Lord clearly resounds in the depths of each of Christ's followers, who through faith and the sacraments of Christian initiation is made like Jesus Christ, is incorporated as a living member in the Church and has an active part in her mission of salvation."
This parable tells us we all have a calling, a vocation, and we all have a mission. No matter what time of the day we experience the invitation, it is time to get to work. The word vocation derives from the Latin word meaning voice, vocare. The Lord speaks to each one of us and says, "You go Into My Vineyard too!" He invites us to respond afresh at every age and stage of our life.
When we choose to live our lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world, we begin to understand this parable, and as we cooperate with grace, we begin to respond to its invitations. Let us ask the Lord to open our eyes to see this truth and our hearts to receive it. Let us say Yes to His invitation to go into the Vineyard of the world. Let us choose to be His laborers in this new missionary age.
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.
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