Certainly, this parable is about the generosity of God and a good preacher would do well to develop that thought. Me? I’ll do something else. I was captured by the scene when the landowner goes into the marketplace and finds people there and asks them: “Why do you stand here idle all day?” Too often we assume they got up late or were not industrious enough, or did not want it bad enough. Certainly our recent and current financial times can help us re-imagine the scene. We all know friends, family members and associated who are “idle all day,” unemployed or underemployed, unable to use their gifts and talents because there is no opportunity available, or apparent – and they are just waiting, hoping that a generous “landowner” will come and give them an opportunity. Just the chance to use their experience, their God-given talents.
Sometimes our church communities are the same way. Years ago I attended a small Franciscan parish in Northern Virginia; I had been going there about 4 years. I was there every Sunday – I knew a couple of people, but not many. One day after Mass I asked the pastor about something in the Gospel and in his homily. A couple of weeks later, the pastor, who I do not think knew my name, asked me if I would lead a parish bible study. Moi? It was as though he was saying, “I have seen you a long time, “Why do you stand here idle” these last four years?” As pastor he saw the need and opportunity, but it just was not apparent to me.
And that is the thing about the Kingdom of God, it becomes visible when we make the opportunity visible for each other. The vineyard owner does that for the workers; he came to them at all stages of the day. In the same way, we come to each other in all stages of life, when there are maturing talents, differing perspectives, more time – inviting folks to use the talents within. I mean… how did that pastor know that I would have a talent for bible studies? But really all the pastor did was to make a need, an opportunity known and invite me to participate. And he hoped I would respond.
That hope for a response is a living embodiment of the Kingdom here on earth where we are invited to participate in Worship, Community, and Ministry. To make this little part of the kingdom called Sacred Heart parish visible to others.
Maybe today is the day when God comes to us and asks, “Why do you stand here idle” in your worship? It is not a question asking why we are lazy in our worship, but an invitation to respond in love. While I was processing at the start of Mass, I was glancing left and right and I have to tell you, there were lots of lips not moving. “Ah, Fadda’ you don’t want to hear me sing.” Well, you may be right, but God does. God gave you the voice, so give it back to God!
My first Sunday as Pastor was memorable. By the 6 pm Mass, the A/C was broken, the toilets were overflowing and the choir had the day off. Who knew? So I attempt to lead missa a capella. We pick the song – but about two measures in I realize that I have started the right song with the wrong melody. Ouch. Even as the song was reduced to a mutter, there was this angelic voice that sang out and got us all back on track. As I passed her, I literally poked her – and said you should be in the choir. And now she is. Maybe I should do that more. “Hey you there, you need to be in the choir. Any you, you there, you need to be a lector. I see you too; you need to be an altar server” And “I can’t hear your ‘Amen.’”
How about ministry? I think as a parish community we stand a little idle. I sometimes think that we hold engage about 2% of our talents – and can only imagine what it would be like each of us participated with just 10% of our talents. The bulletin is always asking for new ministers. “Why do you stand here idle all day?”
Recently a person came to Br. John’s Irish Dance Class – had a great time – and remarked, “I have been a parishioner for 16 years and this is the first parish event or ministry I have ever attended. I had fun and met so many great people.” That person has since joined several other groups and ministries. “Why do [we] stand here idle all day?”
Today the Lord comes to you in the market place and invites you to be a laborer in the harvest. What can you do? What can you contribute? Three years ago someone came to me and said, “Father, you need to start a Sunday morning child care ministry.” Do I look like I know how to do that? But someone of you did! And now there is a Sunday morning child care ministry. Somewhere out there is parish group to address issues of homelessness. There are youth ministers. There are untold ministries waiting to reach out to each other and to reach out beyond the walls of the parish. “Why do we stand here idle” Get engaged. Participate.
Participate in the gift and talents that God has already given you. Participate in the life of the parish: worship, community and ministry. Participate in such a way that we make visible the Kingdom of God, a least a small corner of it in this place called Sacred Heart parish. Such that when other make a look they simply see the love and generosity of God on display in his loving and generous people.