If you were to die today, do you know where you would spend eternity? There’s a question to catch people’s attention! Some of our fellow Christians from other denominations ask that question on a very regular basis, or will use it to start a discussion inviting someone to come to know Jesus Christ.
Hi everyone here’s my homily for the 25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – September 20, 2020. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
For Catholics it’s not something that we talk about, bring up or even think about often. It’s amazing, too, that for a large number of Catholics, who oftentimes don’t even understanding that the Eucharistic host we receive at Mass is actually Jesus’ body and blood and not a symbol – some of these same people, when talking about eternal life, seem to have become theological ‘experts’ when talking about purgatory… thinking that it’s not necessarily an either or between Heaven and Hell – that there’s a third option… God’s waiting room of purgatory (just to be clear it’s not… that’s as ‘correct’ as saying communion is just a symbol).
But before we go down too many tangents, distract ourselves in all sorts of different directions – that is the question that ultimately every human being will come face to face with. Where will we spend eternity? It affects your priorities… your choices… how you live your life… your entire worldview. If you’re an atheist and don’t believe in God, don’t believe in an after life, then this is all there is, and so the desire to maximize pleasure and happiness for as long as possible becomes the focus – and the reality of death, any perceived threat to life, can often result in paralyzing fear.
For Christians, our focus is on Heaven, on God. That’s why we’re here at Mass. Not just to work towards heaven, but as Catholic Christians, to experience heaven here on earth as we do receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist. But being human beings, with many different things floating in and out of our orbits… with real problems… with the noise and confusion from the world, it’s easy for us to lose our focus… to focus on the wrong things and miss what’s most important and most essential.
Even those of us who are in the Church this sadly happens from time to time. A friend of mine at another Catholic institution in another state was telling me of his frustration that their Catholic institution was working very, very hard to make certain that a Muslim group had a prayer room and space – advertising, promoting their prayer times, yet they were reluctant to talk about Catholic teachings, open a meeting with the sign of the cross ,or make sure people knew that Mass was celebrated on a regular basis right their in their own buildings… No doubt that their hearts and minds were well intentioned to try to be inclusive and hospitable. But in that instance the focus was wrong because it came at the expense of what is most important and essential. They failed to realize their Catholic Christian identity in knowing, in loving Jesus Christ and encountering Him in their particular ministry. Without that, their efforts and outreach are diminished in pursuit of those other noble gestures.
So, where’s our focus?
That’s something that kind of stands out in this Gospel parable for me today. We can get distracted going all different paths of thought or discussion over the particulars of Jesus’ metaphor. We can get lost in very human reactions of jealousy or envy that “the later workers get the exact same payment as those who were there all day” which inevitably come up every time this Gospel is proclaimed. We can end up debating a labor dispute rather than getting to the heart of the message of the story. What Jesus wants our focus to be on: that God desires all of us, every one of us, to spend eternity with Him… and that for Jesus it’s not a matter of when that desire and pursuing that becomes important to each and every one of us… it would be great if we were there right from the get-go – like a guy so looking for work that he gets up at the crack of dawn and is happy to be found right away… but that Jesus knows His Father’s heart, that it is His wish that we respond to the Holy Spirit moving in each and every one to come to know and love God through Jesus… That’s the recurring theme in all of the readings. The Prophet Isaiah in that first reading – the first words were SEEK THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND. Paul in his letter to the Philippians – sums things up succinctly – For to me, life is Christ.
That is Jesus’ hope in this parable that constantly confounds, surprises, confuses people with its proclamation. That everyone eventually will recognize what’s most essential – that pursuing eternity, starting now, here on earth, knowing and loving Jesus Christ, listening to Him, serving Him in all that we do in our daily lives, in our families, in our relationships – that is what’s matters the most. That wanting to spend eternity with Him, that should be, that has to be our focus. That it’s of such great importance, that He’s willing to die for it. That’s He’s willing to die for us.