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5:00PM in the Vineyard

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“A Christian has a union with Jesus Christ more noble, more intimate and more perfect than the members of a human body have with their head.“ ~ Saint John Eudes

“Are you envious because I am generous?”

This is the question posed by the magnanimous vineyard owner in today’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16), wherein we revisit the parable of this most generous vintner who, despite hiring workers at various times throughout the day, proceeds to pay everyone the same amount, a full day’s wage, when 5:00PM rolls around.

A number of years ago while serving as an RCIA Sponsor at my Parish, one of the deacons who played a large role in the Program, serving as the lead instructor during many of the key classes, made a rather surprising announcement four or five weeks prior to the celebration of the Easter Vigil. He informed the class that he would be unable to join us at the Vigil Mass. For those of you who don’t know, the Saturday Evening Easter Vigil Mass prior to Easter Sunday is a most glorious and sacred celebration wherein those seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church would, after 8 months of preparation, achieve this full communion. On a related note, if you’ve never attended an Easter Vigil Mass, I strongly urge you to do so.... but be forewarned; those green bananas you bought earlier in the day will be well-ripened by the time you get home, barely salvageable for banana bread. The Easter Vigil is what I like to call “a glorious divine marathon.”

But back to our story.

The following Sunday, our deacon would go on to shed some additional light on the situation. He would be unavailable to join us because his mother, at the age of 91 years old, had decided to become Catholic. He would in turn be flyIng out to San Diego to witness this incredible and blessed event in person. For this deacon‘s mother, no doubt inspired by the outstanding witness of her oldest son, it was indeed 5:00PM in the vineyard of her life. Whatever time remained for her on this Earth would be spent in the fullness and richness of the Sacramental Catholic life.

It has been said that the Spirit will move where it will, how it will and when it will. As people of faith it’s our task to remain open to its unpredictable ways. As we learn in today’s parable, God’s mercy is mysterious, limitless and immeasurable. With regard to the latter, it most definitely isn’t doled out like a paycheck. Whoever comes to God, whenever they come to God ~ in their infancy, midday, 3:00PM ~ they are welcomed in lavish fashion, awash in the ocean of mercy that flows from God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As for those in today’s Gospel who griped at the largesse shown to the late arrivers, it’s far better to take a page from the book of the man whose quote kicks off today’s Reflection, he who had a tremendous devotion to the aforementioned Sacred Heart of Jesus (the Immaculate Heart of Mary too for that matter) and yes, the man whose Feast Day we celebrate today, none other than Saint John Eudes. Among the many things he accomplished and is known for, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the establishment of not one but two religious orders for men and women, and the many prolific teachings and writings he authored which have compelled the Vatican to recently consider bestowing upon him the rarefied title of Doctor of the Church, Saint John Eudes rescued women of ill-repute from the streets, encouraging and assisting them in their efforts to lead a better life. We too should be on the lookout for whomever it is in our lives that needs to be brought to the vineyard that is God’s mercy and forgivenes, whether it’s 10:30AM, a quarter past 2, or rapidly nearing 5:00PM.

The makeup and membership of the Communion of Saints, the entire Celestial Court for that matter, is a prime example of the divergent and unique paths that ultimately lead to salvation. Today’s passage reminds us yet again of God’s loving invitation to enter into a loving union with each and every one of his children. And that invitation carries with it no expiration date.

. . . Saint John Eudes, pray for us.

Saint John Eudes, Priest

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