September 24: First Responders (25 A)

“Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt. 20:1-6.

We are in California at the beginning of the grape harvest; this fruit in all of its varieties have been long on the vines, but now they are lush. And ready to be picked.

When to pick these precious grapes requires expert knowledge. If you are a vineyard owner, the whole vintage may be spoiled if you wait too long.

The gospel story tells us that it’s never too late to invite workers. A delay can be catastrophic; consequently, the need to hire additional workers at the last moment may be essential to accomplish a great harvest.

Thus, “the first shall be last, and the last first.”

So Jesus is asking of us, Jews and Gentiles: is there something in our lives, even something precious to us – that if left behind may allow us entry into this kingdom of light, service, and peace?

The parable of the generous landowner tells us how compassion and grace must mark our lives.

And yet, this quote about the “last will be first and the first” last might confuse those of us – who count each deed and believe that we have merited a reserved seat in the Kingdom of God.

A generation or more ago, a famous Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton remarked: “to make sense of the gospel; we must learn to stand on our heads.”

In this upside-down world, the kingdom has few reserved seats, not for the powerful, or the most qualified, or the self-satisfied.

This “invisible Kingdom of the heart” invites even those who are late-comers. Those who have left behind precious things for the sake of Jesus and his mission of service.

This is our unique and even urgent calling.

Seeing the dramatic rescue efforts by “first responders” in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and now Mexico – we have an idea about how courage and service save lives.

These natural disasters remind us of our common humanity – where courage and service replace talk about heightened security, or concerns over immigration, and border walls. Jesus tells us that no one is unworthy of our love.

In effect, our lives as Christians make us part of a spiritual rescue effort for “souls at risk.”

So in this world – so many kind souls have come to our rescue, we can say, yes, “the first is last, and the last first.”

Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA

At a recent Chapel Service at Santa Catalina, Jessica Cheng and Bell Sainz-Portillo spoke about their service with the Alegria Foundation. This is an inspiring message about the important work that is being done on behalf of children with cleft lip








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