Saturday, March 07, 2020

Better late

Why do you stand here idle all day?
How is your Lent going?  You made it to Mass for Ash Wednesday, or -- maybe you didn’t.  You avoided meat all day Friday – except for lunch (doh!).  And your rosary-every-day resolution has been going great – since you found your rosary yesterday.
Lent happens.  Lent gets off to a rocky start some years.  Lent can start strong, but then we get distracted, or annoyed, or just hungry, and whoosh – there goes our Lenten resolve, right down the drain.  And once we have broken our perfect (or near-perfect) record, we think – Oh well; that’s gone.  And we stop trying.
Doubtless you have heard of “low self-esteem.”  Sometimes we can have “low Lent-esteem.”  We don’t really have our resolutions or Lenten “plan” ready, miss the first week or two of Lent, or drop the ball after a while, and we think that we have blown Lent this year, it’s beyond salvage, and we will just wait and do better next year.
Well, as the angel invariably says when he appears with a message from God: Fear not!  (You can check Scripture that angels really say this.)  All is not lost; Lent and its sweet benefits are still available to you, even at this late date.  
One of my favorites among the Lord’s parables is that of the vineyard-owner and the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).  Remember, the owner goes out into the market square several times as the day goes on, and keeps finding workers whom he hires and sends to his vineyard to work with the ones he brought on at the break of day?   He even hires and sends several “at the eleventh hour” (five o’clock in the afternoon).  Then, at the end of the day, they present themselves to the paymaster and all receive the same daily wage.  And the vineyard owner says to the disgruntled workers who had been there all day, “Are you angry because I am generous?”
He doesn’t have to say anything to the workers who came on late, because they are too busy dancing for glee at their good fortune.   They are taking home way more than they truly earned, and way more than they expected to get when they finally presented themselves in the market square.  
The Lord Himself makes it clear what work we are to undertake for him: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  All three, NOT one of the above; they all work together to heal our souls and rebuild our relationship with the Lord and one another.  This is the work of Lent, and he is still looking for folks who have not yet gone to His vineyard.
One could take this a step too far, and just wait until the last minute; but of course, we never know when our last minute really will come, do we?  Better to go when the Master calls and sends us.
So yes, it is late – the second Sunday of Lent, already.  But the Master is looking for workers to tend His vineyard, even when that vineyard looks remarkably like their own souls.  Do not fall into the grim cycle of low Lent-esteem!  Do not fret the progress of the day that has already gone and cannot be retrieved. Come now, because He calls you now.  You will take home way more than you truly earn, and way more than you expected to get when you finally got around to the undertakings of Lent.
Monsignor Smith