mardi, février 28, 2006

Septuagesima Sunday

I would like to thank Suzanna, the Mother of my dear little Goddaughter, who helps me by correcting my sermons so that they can be in a better English!

I give her too much works, but this is for the glory of God. So now, I can put online this sermon she has just corrected!

Septuagesima Sunday

The kingdom of Heaven is like a vineyard!

Today’s gospel, behind the simplicity of its words, is very rich and tells us a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven. And Our Lord tells us that this Kingdom is like a vineyard. This image is very well chosen by Jesus who knows how to speak to men with simple words, so they will understand well.
Coming from the country that produces the best wine in the world, I can tell you what a vineyard is about, especially in South of France, just 15 miles from Spain, where my first parish was.
First you might think about sunny slopes, which are like the spurs of the Pyrenees Mountains. The bright blue sky in the Mediterranean, which is reflected by the sea gives a particular brilliance to the nature and if you go there during November, you will be charmed by the palette of colors offered for the pleasure of eyes. The vines with their red and yellows leaves stand out between the azure of the sea and the snow-covered tops of the mountains. Here and there, an old village, a church from the middle-ages or a castle comes into view and adds charm to the exquisite beauty of the scenery, which can help us imagine how Heaven will be beautiful.
But in order to obtain a good wine, men have to work hard. A day of vintage is not without pains, when you have to pick the grapes for many hours over the course of one or two weeks. And the wine growers have to work the entire year to maintain their vineyards, protect the vine plants and then make the wine.
Such is the Kingdom of heaven on earth. Before we may enjoy the wine of the eternal wedding, we have to work hard in the vineyard of God.
The master of the vineyard first calls his workers. We can have, at least, two interpretations of this. God, by his grace, predisposes us to work for his Kingdom. And that starts with our justification. If someone is in state of mortal sin, God gives him actual graces which move him towards contrition and then to confession. For a non Catholic, the grace pushes him towards conversion. Some arrive at the first hour of their life, some others at the second hour and so forth, but in all cases the grace of God was first. We would commit a serious sin by resisting those graces and persevering in our sins. And the temptation is easy to think: I can wait for a while. I will confess tomorrow.. later… But later could be never ! It happens that some non-baptized persons know what they must do to be saved and to please the true God, and yet they postpone the day of their Baptism. Their intelligences have grasped the truth about God and his Church but their wills are not yet ready to take the step. They hear and they know the master of the vineyard’s call, but they don’t dare to come and work. Some 'hooks' of the world still hold them and keep them from following Our Lord Jesus Christ. They perceive the beauty of the vineyard but don’t want to leave their comfortable life for the hard labour. They will say, as the disciples hearing the words of Jesus about the bread of life: This saying is hard and who can hear it ?
Dear Brethren, let us pray for those persons. Maybe they need just a grace that we can obtain, on their behalf, for them to convert. If they knew the gift of God, they would not refuse it.

The second interpretation of this call to work in the vineyard is about a vocation to priesthood or a religious vocation. The care of the vineyard needs some specialists and people who are totally devoted. It will be this group of elite that will push and encourage the other workers towards the time of harvest. Here too, some are called at the first hour, the second or the third, but whatever is the time of their calls, let them not ignore it. Refusing such a grace is, perhaps, not a sin in itself, but it is the refusal of a special gift from God. That means the refusal of the special graces that God has prepared for you, for your salvation and the salvation of many others; and would you not accept those graces? Look at the young man in the Gospel. A good man who worships God. But when Jesus asks him to follow Him, the young man says 'no'. No, because he is wealthy and doesn’t want to give up his material goods.
And you, dear brethren, is there anything that you don't want to give up for Christ?

So let us pray to Mary and ask her to help us to work in the vineyard in order to make it more beautiful. It is hard! But Christ shows us the way and gives us the grace. And then, if he finds us faithful, we will one day appreciate the beauty of His Kingdom and will not suffer any more pain. We could enjoy the wine of the eternal wedding with Jesus, Mary and all the Saints of Heaven.

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