September 20: Call on the Lord, He is Near. (25 A)

“The Lord is near to all who call upon him.” Psalm 145:17-18

We are here in California at the beginnings of the fall harvest season, and today’s gospel parable concerns the vineyard owner who rewards his workers, even those who come late. If we are to follow Christ, we will become more like the generous landowner, providing welcome to all people to this saving work. Generosity must mark our lives.

The gospel story concludes with the landowner asking: “Are you envious because I am generous?” To which Jesus comments: “Thus, the last will be first and the first will be last.”

Of course, this statement confounded Jesus’s society as it challenges us, and especially those who measure every deed with the false comfort of a much merited and reserved seat in the Kingdom of God. Here, Jesus is revealing a central feature of his coming reign.

A generation ago, the Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton remarked: “to make sense of the gospel; we must learn to stand on our heads.” The last will be first, and the first last is a head-spinner! In this upside-down world, the kingdom has few reserved seats, not for the powerful, the most qualified, or the self-satisfied.

To make sense of the past six months is not easy. Our world has turned upside down. Most significantly for workers, possibly our moms, dads, family members, or friends who have lost jobs or income, and students so uncertain how to best prepare for future work.

Remember the words of the psalm: “The Lord is near to all who call upon him.” Each day, spend time in prayerful discernment, this too is a generous act.

Most of all, Jesus invites those who have left behind even precious things for his sake and the service of others. And of course, Jesus welcomes those who are late-comers. His invitation is our unique and urgent calling.

Here’s a final thought. On Wednesday, I had my car washed, like so many others that day. An automatic car wash is no big spiritual event, but as I began driving, the fire’s soot and ash on my VW Golf were gone. In the still hazy sunshine, through my car’s windows, I could see the brilliance that is our Monterey neighborhood.

For too many of our neighbors who have lost homes or property and the lives of loved ones, they may not see this brilliance for a long time. We must come to their aid.

As I drove along Carmel Valley Road, the homemade signs were still there thanking our firefighters and first responders. We have a clearer vision about courage, service, and saving lives; and a more profound sense of gratitude to all those who have protected us.

In his little classic, “Report from Engine Co. 82,” Dennis Smith writes:

“They are regular human beings, like you or your neighbors. But something separates them from the norm. In the end, what is most admirable about firefighters is their reliability: When they are called, they come.”

Jesus tells us that no one is unworthy of our love. In effect, our lives as Christians make us part of a spiritual rescue for “souls at risk.”

When so many good souls have come to our rescue, we can say, yes, “the first is last, and the last first.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

On Wednesday evening, I set my DVR to ABC Television’s one-hour broadcast of “Notre Dame: Our Lady of Paris.” This is an extraordinary and emotional documentary about the Paris Fire Brigade and its valent efforts at saving this beloved cathedral on May 15, 2019. Moreover, it is the story of France at its spiritual core: the insights of the young firemen and women, the decisions by the General in charge of the Paris firefighters, and the quiet anguish of the cathedral’s rector.

Mostly this is the first-hand account of the bravery and courage of that night. At its conclusion, as the firefighters came down the stairs of the structure’s iconic towers that hold its massive church bells, they had accomplished their mission. For a brief moment, this band of brothers and sisters stopped to listen to the singing of hymns from the crowds gathered below.

Yes, firefighters, “when they are called, they come!” You can go to the ABC TV Network “On Demand,” or take a look here:







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