"Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever" (Ps. 145: 2). These Psalmist's words of praise from our responsorial psalm took ownership of my mind, thoughts, and attitude from the moment I read all the readings for this Sunday's liturgy of the word in preparation for my homily. While the parable of the Lord's Vineyard from the Gospel for this Sunday's mass from Matthew is outstanding and demands reflective attention, the ultimate disposition of my spirit is to let the words of praise and thanksgiving flow from my lips. Why so, you may inquire? For several reasons. Let me mention a few.
The parable of the Lord's Vineyard highlights the contention between workers who put in a full day of labor in sweat and drudgery and those hired at the eleventh hour and worked only for an hour. The vineyard owner paid the same wage, a denarius, to all the workers irrespective of the hours they put into the work. The owner's action, a human sense of moral justice, is considered unfair. Is God unfair? Absolutely no! God is just. He paid each one what they agreed to receive when hired: "Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?". The grumbling workers do so because of envy, jealousy, and selfishness. The envious workers failed to see, and this is the parable's point, that God's generosity is not a calculated giving and is not merited. God lavishes his grace as he deems fit. Who are we to question or query God on how he dispenses his graces? "What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?" All our good deeds result from God's grace, not human power or capacity.
In light of the central message about grace that we retrieve from this Sunday's Gospel, I always praise and bless the name of the Lord for the gift of my priestly vocation. It is twenty-three years (and still counting) since my ordination on September 23, 2000. Whatever good that has come from my priesthood is not a result of my goodness or merit; it is God's grace at work. I never wanted to be a priest, but the Lord seduced me, and I let myself be seduced (Jer. 20: 7).
What a roller coaster it has been, a journey of ups and downs, with its ebb and flow, yet a progressive one. For the last nine days or thereabout, I have been meditating on the words of St. Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) that help to put my share in Christ's priesthood and my entire Christian life in a proper perspective: "My past, O Lord, to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your providence." I am a happy priest; I am filled with joy for the graciousness of God in choosing me from his people. I ask for your continuous prayers and support. "Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name forever and ever."
Having reflected on God's grace and his gift of priesthood to me, let me take a moment to express thanks to members of our parish who volunteered to serve on our Parish Pastoral Council. Our election results are out, and the top three of the five candidates are Patricia Becker, Eric Hershel, and Donald Heffner. I have also appointed Richard Lichty and Ann Marie Cancro into the PPC. Please thank these brothers and sisters for giving the parish their time and talents. In due time, I will install them before you all.
Conclusively, I want to bring to your awareness that this Sunday is World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis asks that we observe it through our prayers and active support for them. Also, the Holy Father asked us to pray for the Synod on Synodality, which will be concluded in Rome in October: "Without prayer there will be no synod."
In His Joy,
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP