Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Homily)
September 20, 2020 11:30 am · Father Sergio Muñoz Fita
In today's second reading we heard this statement: "For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain." I remember an explanation given by a holy Jesuit priest, Father Mendizábal. He said that the word life can have several meanings. On the first level of natural order, life is the opposite of death. When you say that something "has life" you mean it is not dead. In the supernatural order, to have life means to live in the grace of God. But that is only the first level, and if we are content to stay there, we will settle into spiritual mediocrity.
On the second level of meaning, the word life is synonymous with vitality. When you say, for example, "This child is full of life!" you are expressing not only the fact that the child is alive, but also that he has great energy. He is a boy who does not stop, who does not get tired, who is always playing, talking and moving. In the supernatural order, a person is alive on this level when he not only lives in God's grace habitually but is generously giving himself to the Lord in living out his faith.
There is a third level, in which the word life designates our most intense passion. We hear this when, for example, someone says, "Hunting is my life." What does a man mean when he says something like that? He means that this activity is of maximum pleasure, the cause of his greatest happiness. It means that everything revolves around it: vacations are chosen based on it, money spent to support it, free time dedicated to it, it is dreamed about and joy consists in it. Because he loves what he does, he does not care about the sacrifices that this activity demands. It is as if it gives meaning to his existence. He cannot stop thinking about when he will be able to hunt again, and until that moment arrives, he prepares, anticipates and dreams of it.
"For to me, life is Christ." Saint Paul uses the word life on this last level of meaning. He is saying, “For me, Christ is everything. Everything I do, I do for him. I endure my sufferings with joy, because I endure them for him. Everything I say and do, revolves around Christ. I dream of Christ. I stake my life and expose myself to death for Christ. He is everything: my passion, my heart, my light, the meaning of my existence.
Dear brothers and sisters, can we really say with the same intensity as Saint Paul, "For me, life is Christ"? Is it really? What is your life? What makes you happy? Where do you find your happiness? What really excites you? What do you dream of? Why do you live and for whom do you sacrifice? If the answer to all these questions is not the same - Jesus Christ - then you still have a long way to go.
We are like those who expected to receive more at the end of today's Gospel parable. We seek happiness in other things and we see sacrifices for God as something tedious and difficult, something that costs us. Reading this Sunday's Gospel, I have been reflecting on this: the reward of working in the Lord's vineyard is the very fact of working for Christ! It is an honor; it is eternal glory, to work and suffer for Christ! The salary does not matter! Even if the Lord gave us nothing - and He gives us everything – we should continue working for Him because we love Him, not what He gives us. This is the same mindset as Saint Paul’s. He lived for Christ, and proclaiming the Gospel was for him above all a grace! (Eph 3:8)
Let us ask the Lord to grant us a love for Christ that will lead us to see death, reproach, persecution and suffering for Him as a desirable honor. May our life really be - not only in words - Jesus Christ. May the Lord be our center and working for him, our only prize. Until He comes to give their pay those who labored in this vineyard, may God find us conducting ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.