In today’s gospel, two sons are sent by their father to work in the vineyard. We hear the command: Go out and work in the vineyard today.
The son’s responses are faint-hearted at best. Rare is the one who answers the command to go to work in the vineyard with a full-throated YES, and then actually shows up for wholehearted engagement.
By contrast to the two sons, the ones without reputation, prestige, and means, were so moved by God’s mercy, so intimately attuned to God’s earthly mission, these precious ones were the ones who proclaimed their YES then wholeheartedly showed up for work in the vineyard.
Today, we are a planet awakening to multiple injustices cascading over our consciousness. Our journey to the vineyard cannot be put on hold. The urgency of this moment calls us to go to work in the vineyard where the weeds of hate and indifference choke the vitality of our souls.
The journey to the vineyard requires us to leave behind our real or imagined security, comfort, and control.
Once we arrive in the vineyard, we’re likely to be confronted with an unresponsive hard rocky ground into which our seeds cannot be easily sewn and are even at times rejected.
An ancient Navajo proverb reminds us, “a rocky vineyard does not need a prayer but a pickax.”
Our world today needs us to pick up the pickax of compassion. By choosing the transforming work of relationship healing and tending, we chip away the boulders of hate and neglect that smother the tender shoots of unity.
We don’t go to the vineyard to chisel it in our image. We go to compassionately participate in the creative energy of God, in whose image we all have been given life.
Our compassion needs to be practical and inclusive. So we might ask ourselves, whose inner-resources, long ignored, need to be heard and embraced at this time? Can we find the collective humility to relinquish oversite of the vineyard to these precious, patient others? How do we listen to the pain, the hopes, the vision, the despair, of those who’ve not mattered?
NPR recently covered a story about a beloved doctor in the Phoenix area who died of Covid at the age of 99. Jose Gabriel Lopez is being remembered for having given his life to care for people living in extreme poverty.
As a young man he left his life in Guadalajara, Mexico and came to Arizona, fully committed to his yes. Here he provided medical care for low-income families. One of the very few Spanish speaking medical doctors in the Southwest, Dr. Lopez could have chosen a life of comfort and prestige.
Instead, he spent his talents working in the vineyard of cultural marginalization and poverty. He never asked how many more patients waited at the door. He provided non-stop medical care for generations until he was 89.
Like Dr. Lopez, we too must go to the vineyard of the world, embracing it as it is. When the Body of Christ says YES to the work that awaits us in the vineyard, we most certainly will find ourselves knee-deep in the troubles and sufferings of precious others.
In our vineyard today, the sin of racism is destroying the integrity of our humanity. In the vineyard of our relationships, what must we change about our biases, our own insecurities, our limited understanding of what it means to be human?
Why do we settle for a world in which shame and deprivations of every sort are justified?
“Go out and work in the vineyard today.” Feel this command within your own skin.
The vineyard is the place of communion, where mercy, healing, justice and equality consume the destructive, choking weeds of relational sin.
“Go out and work in the vineyard today… go with the attitude of Christ.”
Take the path God opens before you. Believe that as living grace you can enter the vineyard as renewing justice and reconciling Love.
Go because your integrity will grind down the rocks smothering the vines.
Go because the desperate cries for justice from every corner must be heard by a tender heart…your heart.
Go because shame casts shadows into our collective consciousness with unrelenting cruelty.
Go because the web of life into which we are woven is fraying and knotting into tangles of ungodly complexity because of human excess and unholy desire.
Go with the humility of pick-axed rock, a particle of grace through which roots can burrow deeply and shoots can grow toward sunlight.
Go with the simplicity of one whose intimacy with God is visible to a hurting world.
Go with the consciousness of God’s justice, God’s fairness, God’s integrity.
Go with open arms as the incarnation of Christ’s Love for our world.
Marge Kloos, SC
Marge Kloos, SC
Marge Kloos, S.C., D. Min. is a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati and is serving as a member of the Leadership Team of her religious community. As an associate professor of religious and pastoral studies at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Marge has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in Ministry, Spirituality, and Ecological and Social Justice. She also taught in a regional lay ministry formation program for thirteen years. In 2008, Marge served as a scholar in residence at Tantur Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies in Jerusalem where she researched the impact of intergenerational trauma on women’s spirituality. Having traveled with students enrolled in immersion courses to the US-Mexico Border, Cherokee Boundary in North Carolina, and Ireland since 1995, she has been enriched as a citizen and searching human.
Marge has been a regional keynote speaker and retreat leader. Her presentations focus on wholeness/wellbeing spirituality. She has co-led “Sacred Conversation” groups, drawing on the rich tradition of contemplative dialogue. She currently serves on the boards of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center and Creative Aging Cincinnati and is passionate about music, enjoys cooking, reading and any outdoor activity.
Marge participated in the Leadership Collaborative Program, as well as having completed specialized training in facilitation. Marge is committed to several networks that address ecological sustainability and renewal. She holds an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Human Ecology from Regis University in Denver, a Master's degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton, and a Doctorate in Ministry from United Theological Seminary.