27 Ordinary Time A – October 5, 2014 – Good Stewards in God’s Vineyard
Dear Jessica and Meg.  Today you have publicly stepped forward to declare your intentions to continue your journeys toward membership in the Roman Catholic church. Meg, you have expressed a desire to engage more fully in the life of this church. Jessica, you have indicated your willingness to join us in embracing the cross that symbolizes the injustices plaguing the world. It is a cross of hope and options for others.
The Catholic church is an old religion and our history is bittersweet. It is filled with injustices heaped upon powerless people while offering peace and possibilities to others. This faith community of St. Vincent de Paul is your launching pad and hopefully your Catholic home for a long time. Like our namesake we are dedicated to eradicating injustice. Our response to poverty is one that joins the efforts of other religious traditions.
In 2012, for example, our food pantries, soup kitchens, health care assistance, housing initiatives and family aid served 17 million clients in the USA. One in six patients — 128 million people — are treated at 600 Catholic hospitals, 67% of which are located in urban areas. Thirty percent of all refugees annually are resettled by the Catholic Conference’s migration and refugee services. 
The list of the wonderful attributes and ministries of the Catholic church goes on. Yet, there is more to do. We cannot rest on our laurels. We cannot be lax. We want to be cautious that our efforts are not driven by power but evangelization. We must always serve humbly and with respect for all life — human life and animal life — in a spirit of environmental and ecological responsibility. We continue to honor our traditions while exploring new, bold, yet to be tested, ways to be Catholic in the 21st century.
The renovation of our place of worship is an architectural and artistic symbol of the ongoing transformation of our church – you and me. Discipleship is costly and time consuming.
Today’s scriptures present a valuable lesson for us and the leaders of our religion. The gospel attributed to Matthew is heavily dependent on the passage from Isaiah. It was a common practice for absentee landlords to rent their properties to tenant farmers or share croppers who would hire workers. These farmers had big overheads (taxes, religious tithes and the rent) leaving little room for profit. The workers always got the short end of the deal. To put more money in their pockets, the farmers balked at paying the rent. In fact they killed the dues collectors, even the land owner’s son, thinking they would now own the property themselves.
This is a story of power and greed that is still rampant today in many ways where respect for life is completely obliterated. For example, more than 16,000 workers — 80% victims of wage theft — come to the Interfaith Worker Justice centers for help each year. Wage theft happens in every industry to millions of workers. Billions of dollars are stolen when employers pay less than minimum wage; refuse overtime pay; misclassify employees as independent contractors; steal tips; and fail to pay workers at all. 
The two vineyard stories share common elements. The owner of the land was God. The vineyard was Mt. Zion, the temple and Jerusalem and the tenant farmers were the leaders of Judah. The story behind the scripture story is this. When leaders do not act responsibly for the welfare of others and not just themselves, the responsibility will be taken away from them and given to someone else who does care.
This story is not just about people in supervisory roles like clergy, business owners, educators, law enforcers and government officials who may place power before people. It challenges all of us to treat each other — strangers, family members and friends of all ages — with respect, dignity and tolerance. We are all human beings and in need of each other’s care.
This church is pleased, Meg and Jessica, that you are becoming Roman Catholics. We need you to inspire and encourage those of us who are long time Catholics and our younger teens and children. We all can learn more about our religion and then find ways to translate our proud heritage into social action. After all, our goal is for all of us to be better stewards and responsible co-workers in God’s vineyard.
1 Jessica is a catechumen and Meg is a candidate for full communion.
2 The Church in the 21st Century Center, Boston College, C21 Resources (Fall 2014 p.31) http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/schools/stm/c21online.html
3 Interfaith Worker Justice http://www.iwj.org/issues/wage-theft