Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 20/21, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the first reading.
As a middle school teacher, Fall always means one thing . . . soccer games.
Now, full disclosure, I am not exactly the most athletic of people and you could say that sports has never really been my thing.
And yet, this mystical transformation occurs whenever I am at a game.
I become a soccer expert.
I start analyzing every decision that the referees make. I begin criticizing each call that does not go our way. I find myself lamenting the officials who seem to always miss the obvious.
“If only I was the referee,” I tell myself. “Everything would be fair.”
This all coming from the man who told his friend last week that the soccer game went into extra innings.
Now, I couldn’t help but think of my newfound refereeing ability as I was reading the Gospel for today.
Because I sound so much like those laborers who worked all day.
So convinced of what is just, of what is fair.
So ready to look at the ref, to look at the landowner and tell them that they are wrong.
That I know best.
So quick to remind them that
My team deserves the fair call. They have earned it.
Those laborers deserve more compensation. They earned it.
I better be getting some sort of reward for all of this. For I have certainly earned it. Don’t you see what I do every day? Don’t you notice all the masses I have attended, the prayers I’ve uttered? Don’t you notice the work that I do with these kids, day in and day out?
And yet, once again, the Gospel shouts out to me that I have missed the point.
It is not about what the laborers did or didn’t do. It is not about what I have done or haven’t done.
It is about what God has done.
It’s about the invitation that has been extended to each and every one of us.
The invitation to enter into a relationship in which we will find rest from our labors, comfort from our affliction, and love. Unconditional love.
And there is nothing that we can do lose that invitation.
Whether we have spent years away from God or the Church. Whether we question or doubt, whether we disagree or flatly don’t care.
Whether we have gotten the abortion or cheated on our spouse. Whether we have lost everything through our addiction or whether we find ourselves holding the short end of a broken relationship. Whether we have stolen from our parents or lied to ourselves.
Whether we have been told that we are unlovable, unwanted or a failure. Whether we actually believe that we are unlovable, unwanted or a failure.
We still hold the invitation.
We are still loved unconditionally by the God who fashioned us as his unique, unrepeatable slice of creation.
And yet, at the same time, we must surrender the myth that we can somehow earn God’s love.
That we somehow merit the invitation.
That we deserve the gift.
As if our life was simply an exchange. We rack up a bunch of good deeds and God pays us back in love.
My friends. God already loves us. God will always love us. Nothing will ever change that fact.
This is what the laborers didn’t understand. They spent that day working for a reward that was always theirs.
And in the process, they failed to see the other part of the invitation, they missed the opportunity to make the labor its own reward.
They failed to see how the labor that goes into cultivating a garden is a gift in itself. For in the painstaking routines, the trials and errors, the anticipation, one gets to witness new life, growth, change, and ultimately fresh fruit.
Today, God asks us the same questions the landowner asked his laborers two thousand years ago.
Do we hear the invitation? Do we truly believe that God loves us? Do we believe that we never have to earn that love?
And yet, do we also hear the second part of the invitation? The one in which we are invited to encounter God right now in our lives by giving of ourselves for the sake of our brother and sister. Are we able to stop focusing on our own quest for fairness and see the world through the eyes of the other?
The landowner is calling my friends. Are we ready to answer? May God be Praised.