Dear friends. For the past number of weeks in the parish newsletter, we have encouraged people to volunteer for various ministries in our community – readers, ministers of the Eucharist, cleaners, basket collectors, members of the choirs, etc. The past few weeks have also seen the recruitment of new members of the pastoral council and other voluntary groups here at St Aidan’s. On the last count, there were about 230 such people involved in different public ministries in St Aidan’s not to mention the hundreds of parishioners who contribute to the mission of the Gospel in hidden but no less effective ways, day in day out. Whatever our stage in life and whoever we are, the important thing is to participate, to become involved and to enter the vineyard of the Lord.
Today’s Gospel is the second in two weeks that features a vineyard in the teaching of Jesus. On both occasions, the Lord makes the point that what matters most is that we enter the vineyard and play our part. From last week, we are told that although it might be late when we enter the vineyard, we will still be rewarded generously for what we do. This week from the story of the two brothers, the one who entered the vineyard was the one who did the Father’s will and not the one who said he would but didn’t. Actions speak louder than words.
Today (Sunday) is the first of October which is the month dedicated by the Church to mission. It is also the Feast of St Therese of Lisieux or the Little Flower who is patron of the missions. Years ago, we associated the missions with priests and religious who were working overseas. For the month of October we prayed for them and helped them financially. Today, the mission fields are right here at home. The time of mission is now, in early 21st century Ireland. No longer is the vineyard of the Lord in a far off country. It is in our home, in the place where we work, in the school we attend and the parish where we live. Being a missionary parish today takes greater courage from us all. It is a parish that has a focus outwards beyond itself with the purpose of reaching out to the margins, being supportive and standing by people at every step of the way. This is the missionary vision outlined by Pope Francis in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ where he described the Church as a community which ‘goes forth as missionary disciples – who are involved, are supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice’. The Pope also said that ‘the disciple of Jesus is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ’ (n. 24).
Here is precisely the spirit of mission of Jesus himself. He was sent by the Father on mission into the world to save it. Then when he came, it was not as a high and mighty ruler or powerful king. As St Paul tells us in that beautiful reading from Philippians, he emptied himself out in service, love and truth. His whole life was a life for others in a love that gave itself away in fidelity to the mission entrusted to him by the Father. For us, this is our calling to. It is not about grasping, taking and building everything around us. It is realising that on the day we were baptised, our lives were claimed by God for a unique mission or calling in life. And every day is a day when we are called and anointed to accept that mission and to enter again the vineyard of the Lord. In this month of October dedicated to the missions, our prayer is that everyone may hear their call to enter the vineyard of the Lord and once we hear it, to respond to it and go. In the words of Pope Francis, may we be a Church that ‘goes forth as missionary disciples’. May our parish of St Aidan’s always be a place where people feel welcomed and where their gifts are called forth to serve after the example of Him who ‘did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).
I conclude with the fitting prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman:
‘God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good. I shall do His work.
If I am in sickness, may my sickness serve Him; in perplexity, may my perplexity serve Him; if I am in sorrow, may my sorrow serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me – still, He knows what He is about. Therefore I will trust Him’.