Friday, September 30, 2011

Homily 25th Sun O.T. Year A–The Vineyard of the Mass

Vine-Stained-Glass-Window-181496This weekend, we celebrate Catechetical Sunday, a time we take every year to thank those who have dedicated themselves so generously to the immensely important role in the Church of catechesis, of facilitating a deep relationship with Christ, and of handing on faithfully Catholic teaching and practice. In 1979, Pope Blessed John Paul II published a document on catechesis titled Catechesi Tradendae, or On Catechesis in Our Time. In the last chapter of the document the Holy Father wanted to “sow courage, hope, and enthusiasm abundantly in the hearts of all those many diverse people who are in charge of religious instruction and training for life in keeping with the Gospel.” Today I personally thank all of you who are involved in this great work and I will give a special blessing to you at this Mass, after the petitions. I also want to join my sentiments with those expressed by Blessed John Paul II in that document:

“I am anxious to give thanks,” he said, “in the Church’s name to all of you, lay teachers of catechesis in the parishes, the men and the still more numerous women… who are devoting yourselves to the religious education of many generations. Your work is often lowly and hidden but it is carried out with ardent and generous zeal, and it is an eminent form of the lay apostolate, a form that is particularly important where for various reasons children and young people do not receive suitable religious training in the home. How many of us have received from people like you our first notions of catechism and our preparation for the sacrament of penance, for our first communion and confirmation!... I encourage you to continue your collaboration for the life of the Church.”

One very important role of the catechist that we all will benefit from throughout the coming weeks is helping the parish to grow into a deeper reception, participation, and understanding of the Holy Mass. As many of you have seen in the Record and in our bulletin inserts, the Church in the English-speaking countries of the world, is preparing to receive a new translation of the Roman Missal, or the “Sacramentary”: this being the book that the priest uses at the chair and the altar to pray the prayers of the Mass. A few of our catechists and those involved in planning the worship of our three parishes will be introducing some of the prominent changes in brief 3-5 minutes talks before Mass each weekend until Nov 27, the first Sunday of Advent, when the new Missal will be implemented.

I ask that everyone please try to come a few minutes early for the next several weeks so that you can benefit from these talks. One of the mistakes of the implementation of the Novus Ordo, the new order of Mass that came out of Vatican II, was that very little preparation and catechesis was done. In some parishes people heard Mass said in Latin one weekend only to come to Mass the following weekend and hear it all of a sudden in English and see it celebrated in strikingly new and different ways. This sudden change from one form of the Mass to another was a grave injustice. Many Catholics, understandably so, were offended and embittered by the way the “New Mass” was implemented and carried out. We Do Not want to repeat that mistake. Although the changes of this upcoming revised and corrected translation will not be as startling as the introduction of English and new practices were back then, we still want to do all we can to teach and to prepare you to receive deeply what truly is a great gift and grace to our Church: a translation of the Mass that brings out more profoundly the depth and the richness of our prayer and our faith. I wholeheartedly support and embrace the new Missal that is coming. I am truly excited about it and cannot wait to use it to celebrate Mass with you! In my own role as a catechist, I will be giving a few of these short talks also as well as giving a couple of evening conferences that you all are invited too. See the bulletin for the dates of those.

While I am enthusiastic about all of this, I realize too that change can be hard. Although I haven’t heard any grumbling from you all, perhaps you have from your family or friends. Maybe you could share the following points with them.

Often, when what we are used too gets shaken up, anger is our first reaction. Our Gospel reading today addresses this very thing; it shows us that God’s generosity doesn’t have to conform to our expectations. In the parable we heard, our Lord describes how a landowner hired some workers at the beginning of the day, about 6am, to work in his vineyard. Then he continued to go out throughout the day calling others to work in his vineyard – some at 9am, some at noon, some at 3pm, and still finally, some at 5pm. What St. Matthew doesn’t tell us though is that according to the Law, a day’s wage must be given before 6pm. So we see that the workers who were hired at 5pm only worked an hour and yet still received the same amount of pay as those who had been working since 6am that morning! This story sounds very odd doesn’t it? It sounds as if our Lord is advocating injustice or unfairness.

Some of those who have criticized the new Missal have concluded the same thing. They have said that the Church is being unjust or unfair in expecting the people to change the words they have used for 40 years in beloved prayers like the Gloria and the Nicene Creed. “Why can’t the Church leave well enough alone?” they say. But, they are missing a very important point, the point made by the prophet Isaiah in our first reading: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”

Often – and this new Missal is only one of many examples – we try to make God conform to our plan, our thoughts, our ways, instead of conforming ourselves to his. Our responsorial psalm teaches us the proper attitude we should have. We should rejoice when we are able to behold the great generosity of God, even when it comes in a way that we do not expect or would not have chosen ourselves. “Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable… The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.”

After the first-comers complained, the landowner soon asked them, “Are you envious”? The underlying Greek of this passage literally means “Is your eye evil?” We must not have an evil eye toward one another or toward the Church, because an evil eye sees evil where there is only good. God is incapable of injustice. As our responsorial psalm told us, “the Lord is just in all his ways and holy in all his works.” It’s not that God is blind to the fact that the new Missal will change some of the phrases that we hold so dear and in ways we may not have expected or preferred. The point is that his generosity is never restricted by our measures and expectations. This new Missal truly is an example of this immense generosity toward us. St. Augustine taught the famous Latin maxim: lex orandi, lex credendi, the law of prayer is the law of belief, meaning that the way we pray is affected by what we believe and it in turn informs our belief. Whenever we can grow toward a truer worship, a constant endeavor of the Church throughout the ages, then we can grow in Faith. And Faith, along with Hope, and Love, are God’s greatest gifts.

The Mass is the vineyard that we are being called to work in and for. Listen to these inspiring words of our late Holy Father… “This is the vineyard, this is the field.” There is no better opportunity, we have the graces necessary now, here, to be coworkers in the vineyard, to grow closer to Christ and bring others to him. No one should cross our path in this life and be able to say that he wasn’t encouraged to love Christ and His Church more. Not one of our coworkers, not one of our classmates, not one of our relatives, not one of our friends should reach the dawn of his life and say that no one showed him genuine sacrificial love. Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to “Go you also into the vineyard”!

Every one of us has our own unique role in bringing each other closer to the Mass, not just our catechists. Our children can listen carefully to the instruction they receive at school and be a good example to their friends in how to behave at Mass. In our upcoming server training, we will improve upon the already excellent job that our servers are doing so that they can serve in a way that coincides with the dignity of the Mass that will come out in new and deeper ways in the prayers. Our adults too, especially the parents of the children to be baptized today, have a responsibility to lead their families; the elderly and homebound can pray for us; etc.

St. Gregory said, “The people who really work for him… are those who are anxious to win souls and bring others to the vineyard” or as our Gospel calls it, “the kingdom of heaven.” The Mass is a taste of the kingdom of heaven on earth. There is no greater thing to work for. Although it us ultimately the work of God, if we work hard to receive it and understand it well then we will be repaid for our effort with God’s own divine life: the greatest un-expectation.

No comments: