Homily from the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
Every true, red-blooded American knows that one of the greatest movie genres is baseball movies. I love baseball movies. I think because many of them are not really about baseball. They’re about humanity and use baseball merely as the backdrop.
If you haven’t seen “Field of Dreams” go rent it tonight and watch it. You shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the next election without seeing it.
Ray is a farmer and one day he hears a magical voice say, “Build it and he will come.” Well, Ray is a huge baseball fan, so he concludes that if he rips up half of his corn crop and builds a baseball field there, that the long dead Chicago White Sox outfielder, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball for throwing the World Series, will get to come back to life and play the game again.
So he builds the field and Shoeless Joe Jackson comes and plays baseball. And Shoeless Joe brings other long gone players with him. And at the close of each day, when the baseball game is over, the players leave the field by walking into the corn beyond the outfield, where they disappear into some mysterious world beyond our own which we do not see.
Then the voice tells Ray to do more crazy things like drive halfway across the country to bring his favorite childhood author to the park. And he does so. He is blindly obedient to the voice and does whatever it says.
Then, one day, as Shoeless Joe Jackson and other long gone baseball players are getting ready to leave and disappear into the world beyond the corn, Shoeless Joe asks the question, “Hey, do you want to come with us?” Except Joe isn’t asking Ray. He’s asking Ray’s favorite author instead who had only arrived a few days ago.
Ray is outraged and blurts out, “Him? Wait a second, why Him? I have done everything I have been asked to do and not once have I asked what’s in it for me?” Shoeless Joe asks Ray, “What are you saying Ray?” Ray responds, “I’m saying, what’s in it for me?” And Joe asks Ray, “Is that why you did this? For you?”
Today, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who goes out to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. And as it turns out, everyone gets the same pay, regardless if they started at the beginning of the workday or at the end. And those who worked all day long are outraged that they are being paid the same amount as those who show up at day’s end. It doesn’t seem fair. Why are the latecomers being paid the same and furthermore why are the latecomers being paid first?
Well, consider what the various laborers agreed to and what they were promised by the landowner: to the laborers hired at dawn, the landowner promises, “the usual daily wage.” They will be paid the amount due for a full day of work. And they agree and go work.
To the laborers hired in the middle of the day, the landowner promises to pay them “what is just.” So, they anticipate a half-day’s wage for a half-day’s work. And they agree and go work.
Finally, to the laborers hired near day’s end, the landowner promises nothing. He simply tells them to go to the vineyard. No payment terms have been negotiated. These laborers are merely given the opportunity to work in the vineyard with no promise of a payback. And with great trust and no concern for “what’s in it for them” they agree and go to work.
So, it’s the latecomers who are the most selfless and trusting and thus, they are paid first. And they are paid the full amount not based on the work they have done. But rather because they accepted the Master’s invitation – His will.
Have you ever prayed like this: “God, if you will just do “x” for me, I promise that I will do “y.” I distinctly remember at least one occasion in which I prayed that way. It was at a baseball game: game six of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Marlins. And I said, “God, if you will just let the Cubs go to the World Series, I promise I will become a priest.”
We can’t get what we want by making a bargain with God. Instead, if we place our trust in God, He will give us so much more than we could ever bargain for. He will give you His Kingdom. He will give you His love. And love never counts the cost.
You are loved by God not because of the good things you do. You are loved by God just because.
We cannot earn God’s love. We cannot earn God’s love just because; just because He already loves us and always will and He’ll never stop loving us.
Now obviously, we can reject His love. He has given each of us a free will. And we can choose to accept His invitation to work in the vineyard or not. And we agree or disagree to work in His vineyard, to enter or not enter into His Kingdom by the choices we make.
But He always keeps the door open. And it doesn’t matter when we enter, be it at the beginning of the day or at the end; at our baptism or on our deathbed, so long as we accept His invitation.
And we don’t need to worry about “What’s in it for me?” Because we have a Father who knows our needs more than we do and offers all of us more than we could ever ask for.