Septuagesima Sunday 12.2.17 Working for God
Imagine a town where everyone is suffering from poverty. A rich man comes and seeks to alleviate the poverty of the town. He could just give them all a pile of money; or he could give them work, for which he would pay them. It is this latter way that God takes with us.
He could simply put us in Heaven, but He wants us to work our way there.
The work itself does not save us. What saves us is that by working we are putting ourselves in an ongoing lifegiving relationship with God. Like a branch to the vine (Jn 15, 1-17).
And we do this for as long as we have - from the moment of conversion to the moment of death. All time belongs to Him, and we fill it with our response.
Once we start we do not stop: He who has put his hand to the plough, does not look back (Lk 9,62). The servant should be still at work when the master returns (Lk 12,37). From now on you will be fishers of men (Lk 5,10)
And St Paul, in the epistle, speaks of the need to run to the end, not slacken off.
We must not be alarmed by all this talk of work. Work is not a burden when motivated by love.
The love of God will act on us; will motivate us so that we want to do what He wants us to do. People put themselves out for those they love. As Christians, we love everyone; or at least Christ does, and we are learning to do as He does.
No one is unemployed in God's kingdom. The old, the sick, the disabled – all can contribute. It is simply a matter of doing, or enduring, whatever is required.
‘Work’ in this sense is much more varied than paid work. If someone asks you, socially, what you ‘do’, you could reply ‘I work for the Lord’. This could mean, I cheerfully offer up my sufferings; I pray for the conversion of sinners; I go to Mass to glorify God – it is all work.
We know there is a reward for this, and in fact it is far more than we deserve.
We are doing only as we should (cf the servants (Lk 17,10)). We are obliged to be and do good, even if there were no reward.
But there is a reward. It is represented by the denarius of the parable. We all receive the denarius whether we come in early or late. It is eternal life, and happiness.
Applying the parable to our situation, we could say that all the workers are paid ‘too much’; even the ones who came early, and worked all day.
We might be tempted to envy those who come in late, and find Heaven. But we are all being treated better than we deserve, since we are nowhere near good enough (by our own merits) to go there.
We are all the latecomers in that sense. Only by the grace of God are we saved.
First He forgives us; then He gives us work to do, for which He provides motivation; then He rewards us with more than we deserve.
All we have to do is turn up for work, to show enough interest for Him to do the rest.
We are more fortunate than we usually think ourselves.
So let us work on, not counting the days or hours, until the time of reckoning.