I had a spiritual director (a priest you would meet with and discuss where God is in your life and your spiritual practices and such) who was this young, Italian priest who really challenged you to apply yourself in your spiritual practices. One week, I really applied myself to all my spiritual practices and was feeling pretty good about myself. So we met at the end of the week and I told him all of these wonderful things I was doing. After listening to these accomplishments, with a straight face, he responded, “You’re nothing.” This response took me by complete surprise, so I went over the accomplishments again. His response, again, “You are nothing.” So I changed tactics - I explained all of the obstacles I had to avoid - all of the times I chose to go pray instead of watch TV - or the many hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament - or all of these reasons why this was such a great accomplishment. Still - the same response. I started to get pretty mad at this priest. How could he not see and praise me for all that I was doing? He just kept saying over and over, “You are nothing.” And to be honest - that’s where we left it. I left his office feeling very confused and angry. I just didn’t understand. We will get back to this.
Our Gospel this weekend contains one of the most popular phrases of Jesus that people love to use - ‘The last will be first, and the first will be last’. It comes at the end of a parable where laborers have been coming during all parts of the day to work in a vineyard. At the end of the day, those who began work early expected to be paid more than those who started to work later in the day. But they did not receive more pay and began to complain. The owners response to them is for them to take what is given to them and be content with it - to not care about the generosity of the owner, who is generous to all.
This parable is addressed to His disciples who just asked Him in chapter 19 what will be in store for them because they have left everything to follow Him. Jesus, here, wants the disciples to know that giving up everything and following Him is a very good thing - but His Father has given everything to them in the first place. THAT is the most important part. The things they have given up; the things they have worked for; the things they have earned; the things they have achieved; EVERYTHING in their life only exists because God has given it to them FIRST.
This is the reason why my spiritual director kept telling me that I was nothing. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see all the wonderful spiritual things I was doing - it was because I couldn’t see that all of those wonderful things only were possible because God gave me the ability to praise Him and love Him FIRST. I was/am nothing without Him. I thought that I should have been praised for the great things I was doing. I thought I was the champion of the spiritual life. I thought I was first. But the first will be last.
The last will be first - those who realize that everything comes from God. He is the champion. He is the victor. He is first. And if He is first - then we are last. Our spiritual lives must begin with humility and gratitude for all that God gives to us. Let us pray for the ability to see that in our lives this week. Let us not be blind to the generosity of the owner of the vineyard of our souls.
A couple of updates:
1. Thank you to our first graders and Home and School as well as the school community at large for dropping off cards and treats for our local police officers and firefighters on 9/11. It is a day that will always be remembered for the bravery and sacrifice of those who gave up their lives for others.
2. You will notice that we cut down some dead trees around the church building and the Our Lady of Life grotto. The next step will be to plant some new flowers, bushes, and trees around those areas. We will then move to our school.
3. Our ability to Live-stream is making progress. Hopefully we will soon be able to livestream all events in the church to those who can’t be with us - especially our grandparents, and all those who can’t come because of COVID. At the same time, we are also looking at our sound system in the church building. It is from 1970 and sound systems have really come a long way since then.
May you all have a blessed week and please stay vigilant and safe.
May the Lord give you His peace,