You are made for eternal life and you will have eternal life. We know that there are four things that come when our mortal life comes to an end: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. We will all see three out of the four. We will die; we will be judged. And based on God’s judgement, we will spend eternity either with God in heaven or cut off from God in hell. We work, pray, and hope for heaven; we can have confidence that we will be judged fairly not on our own merit, but on our faith. Because our God is both perfectly merciful and also perfectly just, He gives us Christ as our savior so that we can be saved through the merit of Our Lord.
That’s Catechism 101, right? We all know that. But let’s apply it through the readings we hear today.
The first reading tells us several important things. Seek the Lord while He may be found; call Him while He is near. God is all good; we find Him in doing good. We will not find Him in doing evil, and so we must forsake evil thoughts and actions. It isn’t enough to act according to our fallen nature; we must act according to our higher nature: to what God calls us to be.
Also, we must seek God. We must actively look for Him – search Him out in doing good and thinking good. We must advance the Kingdom of God on earth if we want to find Him. We can’t simply stumble through life hoping for the best. We must actively look – actively do – God’s will, which is always for the good.
God’s thoughts and ways are so high above us that the search is not always easy, but the rewards are worth all of the effort it takes and more, for as the psalm tells us The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.
In the second reading, Paul is writing about the same ideas. Life is Christ and death is gain. In living, Paul will continue to labor for the Lord and his work will produce fruit. It did in his lifetime; it has in the centuries since. For those of us hearing his words today, it still does and it will continue to produce fruit long after you and I are gone. This is God’s plan. To borrow a phrase from a popular television show: this is the Way. The true Way in which is found the Way, the Truth, and the Light. It is true for Paul and it is as true for us. Our works, our thoughts, and our prayers can produce great fruit for the Kingdom of God, if only we conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Even the verse before the Gospel gives us insight into this mystery: Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.
Open our hearts, Lord. Today, tomorrow, and always and let us hear the Gospel. Let it enter us and transform us. Let it make us what You call us to be and let it lead us through our thoughts, words, and deeds ever closer to You and Your Holy Kingdom. Let it inspire us to know You, to love You, and to serve You in this life. Most of all, let it lead us to You in the life to come so that we may be with you forever in Heaven. Alleluia, indeed.
The Gospel reading today follows the same pattern we’ve seen in recent Sundays. Jesus is describing the kingdom of heaven to us in terms of a parable. The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. He went to the marketplace and found laborers who were there, waiting to be hired. He didn’t pick a random location; he didn’t beat around the bushes hoping to scare up laborers. He went to where they laborers could be found waiting for him… to where the laborers were seeking him, and he hired them to do work – to produce something good – for him. And in exchange he promised them the usual daily wage. Then he went out again and again and again, doing the same until at the end of the day, he had some workers who had labored all day and some who had labored only a few hours. Yet at the end of the day, they all received the same payment – the same reward – for the fruit of their labor.
Like the landowner, God seeks us. Like the laborers, we seek Him. Some of us find Him early; some find Him much later. The reward is the same for all of us, and it is the reward for which we all hope: life eternal in heaven with our Lord. We cannot and we must not feel cheated when those who find God very late in life are invited to the same banquet in heaven for which we long. In fact, we should feel exactly the opposite. It is not those who come to know our Lord early who should feel as if their life was less than it could have been – it is those who come late. Yes, sometimes working for the kingdom does feel like a burden and a labor, but it is a labor in which we can find incredible joy… now and when our earthly work comes to an end and our eyes are opened to the greatest mystery of all. Then, it will not be unreasonable to look back on our lives with regret that perhaps we didn’t work longer and harder for the kingdom. Forgive us our sins, what we have done and what we have failed to do.
Finally, one more very important point: seeking God where He may be found is the wise path. It is the easiest and best path. It is not the only path. If we want to accomplish something good we should take the most direct path possible. But we should never despair of God’s mercy, for God’s mercy is without end. Those who wander from the path will be called back to it, if only their hearts are open to that call.
At the end of our life, we will face our judge – the one true, perfect Judge… the One whose love and mercy is without end, and whose justice is perfect. Knowing this, we should devote ourselves to conducting our lives in a way worthy of the Gospel – in the way God calls every one of us to be – so that we may receive the reward of heaven and live forever with God.