Matthew 20:1-16 I Will Give You What is Just
The Lord is much more generous than his creatures. Thank God! “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” (Ps 23:1) He will give more than what is just, for what is just is more human than what is love, which is of God. May I never forget that God’s justice is his Son’s passion – our prize; his pain.
The word of the Lord came to Ezekiel (Ez34:1-11):
· “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!”
· “Should not shepherds pasture sheep?”
· “You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured.”
· “You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost.”
· “My sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.”
Bishops and priests have been given authority, by the Lord, to shepherd his flock! What kind of authority do they have? To give their life for others. That’s it. It’s okay; actually, it’s good, it’s part of the Good News that there are those who are called to lay down their lives for others. Is this not the vocation of mothers and fathers, and husbands and wives who have been drawn closer to the well and are to serve rather than to be served? Their service is to be generous: to give more than others; to bring back the strayed or the lost; to strengthen the weak, heal the sick and to bind up the injured; to pasture their neighbors rather than themselves. It is a commitment to poverty, chastity and obedience. The reward will be great in heaven!
When Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was nine years old, he told his mother that he wanted to be a poor village (country) priest. His mother responded, “We are already poor and live in a village. You want to be a priest? Let us see.” He became Pope John XXIII. His motto: Obedience and Peace. He gave almost seventy of his eighty-two years of life to others.
A few years back I met a gentlemen in San Giovanni Rotondo who was adamant that Padre Pio was a saint! (This was prior to his canonization.) I asked him why he was so sure? He answered that he had been one of two in charge of cleaning his room after his death. He was amazed to find “not a single penny” in his quarters. He was a poor priest who lived a rich life with the Lord.
But then we have the example of Karla Faye Tucker, a convicted murderer and executed for two brutal murders, who converted to Christianity while in prison. For the last fourteen years of her life she was a model prisoner. Even the prison warden was moved by her conversion. Regardless of the pleas made by John Paul II and various dignitaries, including the president of Italy, Karla Faye was executed by lethal injection on February 2nd, 1998. When it was announced that she was dead, a vociferous crowd erupted with applause and cheers, while others sang “Amazing Grace.” The song was shouted down by cries of “Kill the b----!” Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro stated in a public speech, “And we are on the threshold of 2,000 years of Christ!”
The Lord asks, “Are you envious because I am generous?” May we never boast in ourselves for what we have freely received from an early age! May we never grow envious of those who have been received by the Lord later in life! God forbid that I would prefer the death of the sinner than their salvation! Cost whatever it may cost every lay Catholic is called to be a “shepherd” in the Church. Why? Because they have received so much, much more than they ever deserved, especially the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession and the Eucharist. The lay people are called to be “Pastors” or “Preachers” of the Word of God – especially of his mercy and love. Consecrated men and women are called to live the life of the Lord, devoted exclusively to him: “Through Him, with Him, and in Him.” They die to self so that others may live. Who deserves that? The irony of today’s gospel passage is that our Father has given us more than what is just. He has given us his very own Heart – his Son!
Today, let us offer up our prayers and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and those that are entrusted to their care. There is a fine line that separates the two: Jesus Christ.