Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20: 1-16a
“Seek the Lord while He may be found” (Is. 55:6). The prophet Isaiah assures us that this is the acceptable time to seek God because His is seeking us and His Spirit is hovering over us. Jesus calls out to us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). The Lord tells us to seek rest for our souls, in Him. He chooses to be found by those who are stressed by worldly cares. He wants to be found when we most need finding! Remember these words of the prophet: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me. I was found by those who did not seek me out. I said to a nation that that did not call my name: I’m here! I’m here!” (Is. 65:1). It remains for us to hear and respond to God’s call.
The prophet continues his exhortation: “Call him while he is near” (Is. 55:6). As followers of the Beloved Son, we should go through life with our eyes fixed on Christ Who spoke to us through the Evangelist Matthew: “Be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of time” (Mat. 28:20). Whoever calls to the Lord will find admittance to the Kingdom. Remember these words of Jesus: “Everyone who asks receives. Anyone who seeks will find. To all who knock, the door will be opened” (Mat. 7:8).
The one who has sought the Lord and called out to Him is then instructed, “Let the scoundrel forsake his way” (Is 55:7). The only reason we have sought the Lord is that he has already sought us. It is in the best interest of those who feel their guilt and misery to lay their burden down at the foot of the Cross and find rest in the heart of Christ. In life’s journey, we have to know where we are going. Are we headed for our heavenly homeland or are we headed for the land of unlikeness, where nothing is as it seems. All who repent of their sinful ways and respond to the call of the Master will find rest for their souls and will obtain peace and comfort for their hearts.
The prophet continues: “Let him turn to the Lord for mercy” (Is 55:7). If we deny ourselves and turn towards Him we will find forgiveness for our sins with its accompanying peace and joy. There is a way out of the swamp that draws us downwards into darkness and despair. Through His passion and death, Christ immersed himself in the Stygian pool and transformed it into a bath of living and life-giving water. If we are willing to surrender to the Lord of Life we will find ourselves “running along the path of God’s commandments as our hearts expand with the inexpressible sweetness of love” (R.B. Prol.).
Recall the exhortation of St. Paul at the end of today’s second reading. “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil.1:27a). As disciples of the Living Word, we are to keep our eyes on the things that above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Having sought the Lord and called upon His name, we are to distance ourselves from sin and place ourselves at the service of our brothers and sisters. The love of the Lord will stretch and coax us until we look at the world with the eyes of an expanded heart. For us to live a life worthy of the Gospel we must be totally conformed to the person of Christ, and be totally obedient to the Father’s will. By remaining consciously in love, we will contribute to the building up of the Kingdom in our day and in all we do God will be glorified.
God is constantly calling laborers to work in the vineyard. He seeks those whose hearts seek Him. He calls upon those whose innermost self calls out to Him. The success of their work depends on God’s grace and not on their efforts. God patiently seeks laborers, waiting for them to be willing to give themselves over to Him and the building up of His kingdom. It does not depend on how much we have to offer in the service. What matters is our willingness to offer all. God is generous and just. He does not play favorites. He invites us into the vineyard and treats all of us equally.
The parable of the vineyard brings to mind a line found in Luke’s gospel: “When you have done everything you were told to do, say, ‘We are worthless servants. We have only done what we were hired to do’” (Lk. 17:10). God, in His mercy, has purchased us at the price of Christ’s blood poured out for us on the cross. We belong to Him and no one else has a rightful claim on us. Consequently God is not in debt to any of us for our services. He owes us nothing for using the gifts He has given us in the service of the Kingdom. By God’s grace, we are in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, responding to the call whenever we have heard it.
God never stops inviting us to yoke ourselves to Him as we work that section of the vineyard that is in need of our gifts and talents. We serve a generous and loving Master Who blesses us for responding to His call. The parable takes up the exhortation of the prophet Isaiah. It is never too late to respond to God’s call, to “Seek Him while he may be found” (Is. 55:6). The reward of those who have responded to the call of the Master is joy because their hearts have been set free to run the paths of God’s commandments. They have been clothed in light and shall behold the glory of the Lord. As we labor in the vineyard of the Lord, may our hearts be expanded with the inexpressible sweetness of love. As we turn our gaze the Lord Who has set His gaze on us, may we be “changed into His image, with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
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