The chief apostle of Gaul (that is ancient France) was the fourth-century missionary-bishop, St. Martin of Tours. Born in what is now Hungary, and originally a soldier (though he disliked soldiering), Martin eventually came to Gaul and founded the monastery of Liguge. Ten years later he had acquired such good repute that the people of Tours demanded him for their bishop. As bishop of Tours he became widely noted for his piety, his tireless missionary efforts among the pagans of the countryside, and his labors as an international churchman.
When he was about eighty, Bishop Martin had a knowledge that death was drawing near, and he announced it to his disciples. With tears in their eyes, they begged him not to leave them. Torn between his desire for heaven and his desire to serve his flock, he prayed to God, “Lord, if your people still need me I will not refuse the task. Your will be done!” God did not change the schedule. The fatal illness attacked Martin soon after, while he was visiting a remote part of his diocese. But he had left the decision up to God.
“…I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ, for that is the far better thing; yet it is more urgent that I remain alive for your sakes.” (Philippians, 1, 23-24. Today’s second reading.)
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q337: Can you make a connection for me between the First Reading (Isaiah 55:6-9 – seeking the Lord) and the Gospel (Mt 20:1-16a – the vineyard workers)? There doesn’t seem to be a link between the two.
When King David was dying, he told his son, “If you seek the Lord, he will let himself be found by you” (1 Chron 28:9b). Shortly after that, the Lord appeared to new king Solomon, and told him that no matter how bad things might get, if the people “seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins” (2 Chron 7:14b). Now, 400 years later, we hear the prophet Isaiah in the First Reading (Is 55:6-9) urging the Jewish people in Exile – who are experiencing how bad it can get – to “seek the Lord.” And the Psalmist today stresses “The Lord is near to all who call upon him” (Ps 145:18).
Why do the people seek the Lord? In most cases, they are in a bad situation, and they cry out for his mercy and compassion. That is the link. God’s holiness will not tolerate sin; therefore, you always see “conditions” (or better, “prerequisites”) to a true relationship with Him — such as the call to “forsake” wicked ways, “turn” from evil ways, and in New Testament times, “repent” – actions which show a humbled heart open to God.
In our Gospel story (Mt 20:1-16a), we hear the parable of the Vineyard Workers. Notice that the “owner” of the vineyard – God – goes out himself to find the unemployed workers, rather than the other way around. He treats all equally, no matter how late the hour, demonstrating his compassion and mercy to those without dignity. Such is the way of our God with sinners. God is always inviting us to return to his vineyard, and find meaning in a restored relationship with our merciful Creator. He is inviting us to seek Him, and to be assured that He will let himself be found!
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! We ask the Mother of Mercy to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death – this humbly acknowledges that we are indeed sinners seeking God’s mercy (CCC #2677). God desires mercy from us also, not sacrifice (CCC #2100). Therefore we must imitate Jesus, and desire to perform works of mercy (CCC #2447) like a true disciple.
It Isn’t Fair!
I suspect that this is the immediate reaction of many people on hearing this parable from today’s gospel. We live in a society which is very touchy about justice, about giving individuals their rights. That’s probably why we have so many lawsuits. But Isaiah tells us today that our ways are not God’s ways. God’s ways are far beyond our comprehension, yet we are called to follow God’s ways. If God dealt with us in strict justice, we’d be in a bad way, so we should be glad that his ways are different. He forgives where we would demand our pound of flesh. He gives freely, out of love, what we have not earned, a gift, not payment for service. The scriptures show us a God who turns conventional wisdom on its head, sometimes filling us with dismay, sometimes overwhelming us with joy and wonder.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, in heaven. You are always near us through your everlasting kindness and generosity. In contrast to our strictness in asserting our rights, it seems to highlight the distance between us. Still you are truly near to all who call upon your name in hope of mercy and forgiveness.