Examining our consciences about working in the Vineyard Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008 -- 3:27 AM

Dear Friends,

under the gospel bookContinuing the theme of last week's column, in terms of the spiritual exercise of examining our consciences, the readings of this past Sunday have prompted me to proceed along the same line.

The Gospel story tells us of those who are called to work in the master's vineyard only at the last hour and they still receive a full-day's pay. Those who have worked for longer periods in the master's vineyard complain and find fault with the master for his generosity to the late arrivals.

The Church as the Vineyard of the Lord

The vineyard in Scripture can always be taken to mean the House of Israel -- the Vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel -- and in these last of days since the Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Vineyard of the Lord is the Church.

Those who were standing around idle in the Gospel story had no place to go and nothing to do. They had no place to belong. The master of the vineyard gave them a good place to go and something very good to do. The Catholic Church is the vineyard, in which you and I are called to work each day. It always amazes me that these workers, who had worked in the vineyard for longer periods, found no joy in belonging in the Lord's Vineyard, which would prompt them to express gratitude to the master at the end of the day, rather than complain about his generosity.

There are Americans who seek, primarily, to complain and find fault with our country. Our country is imperfect in many ways and we must always speak and work so as to bring about a greater living out of justice -- there can be no doubt about that.

The Church, the Vineyard of the Lord, is a completely different kind of society than our American society. The Church is a mystery; it is the Lord's Vineyard. Citizenship in our country is acquired by the proper circumstances of birth, in most cases. Citizenship in the Lord's Vineyard, the Church, is acquired by Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

Thankful for work in the Vineyard

There are Catholics, who, like some of the laborers at the end of the day in the Gospel reading, complain about the Church and seek, in the first place, to find fault with Her. We need to examine our consciences in this regard. Surely the Church has always to seek more fully to reflect the holiness of Mary, the Mother of the Church. Surely the Church always needs reform. And that is part of the labor for those of us blessed to be called into this particular vineyard.

But above all, Catholics ought to wake up every morning thanking God for their Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist; thanking God that they have a vineyard, in which they belong and can find a home. The love for being in the vineyard should be the source of joy in their hearts, joy which outweighs anything in the vineyard about which they might want to complain.

In the end, the Church, the Vineyard of Christ, is a mystery of communion. It is not an international club that can be evaluated by the same sociological criteria as any other society. Too often the Church is treated without the loving gratitude, for presence in the Lord's Vineyard.

In last Sunday's Gospel all of those in the vineyard should have loved their sense of belonging in the vineyard and been filled with gratitude to the master, who gave them the gift of being at home in his vineyard, rather than expressing negativity or complaint. As last Sunday's first reading pointed out, the Lord, the Master of the Vineyard, says, "my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways -- as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts."

The Church, the Vineyard of the Lord, is a mystery of communion. We believe our Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, in what She teaches. The Church is worthy of mention and it is necessary to mention our Church whenever we seek to profess our Catholic faith.

Let us all, myself first and foremost, examine our consciences as to whether we accept, every day with joyful gratitude, the gift of belonging to the Vineyard of the Lord, the Church. Let us all, myself first and foremost, examine our consciences as to whether we wake up each morning more grateful for our Baptism, Confirmation, and participation in the Eucharist than anything else.

Thank you for reading this and God bless each one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!