Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord

The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

On this Labor Day, we celebrate the importance and dignity of human labor, as well as its place in God’s plan.  The Catechism teaches that God entrusts the earth to the stewardship of humanity and, in creating us in his image, he calls us to prolong the work of creation (CCC 2402, 2427). Similarly, the Lord calls us to be laborers for his vineyard – he asks the People of God to help in his work of salvation (CCC 2427, cf. Matthew 20:1).

This work of ours is accomplished in a variety of ways. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity” (Deus caritas est, 25).  While some in our society would limit the exercise of our Catholic faith to our houses of worship, the Holy Father made clear that “these duties presuppose each other and are inseparable” (Id.).

We are called to manifest the kingdom of God not merely within our church buildings but, out in the world, building up the common good.  When we correspond to God’s grace, we are extending the kingdom, we are able to be the image of Christ to all those we encounter – in his love, in his truth, in his mercy, and in his justice, making a gift of ourselves in service to communion with God and one another in him.  This is how Christ changes the world.

Essential to the fulfillment of this work is the preservation, oversight, use and development of the temporal goods of the Church, as well as the time, talent and treasure offered by the members of the Church.  In these areas of administration and stewardship, mere bureaucratic efficiency is not the measure of success.  As co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, we have an obligation not only to  safeguard what has been entrusted to us as laborers and stewards, but also to take care that good and abundant fruit is produced for the Lord (e.g. Isaiah  5:1-7, Matthew 20:1, 21:33-43).

“The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light,” says Pope Francis, “as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself” (Evangelii gaudium, 27).

Thus, our Archdiocesan Synod recognized the need for policies and appropriate institutional structures to ensure that our parishes, schools, ministries and offices are enhanced in their vitality and effectiveness with respect to fulfilling our mission in the New Evangelization, as well as in day-to-day business operations and finances.  Synod members also urged that measures be taken so that employees are qualified and volunteers are able to fully use their skills in addition to providing financial support.  Based on the recommendations of the Synod, statutes were enacted with the aim of our being the best administrators and stewards of what the Lord has entrusted to us in his Church.

In the Gospel for today, we hear Jesus proclaim a kingdom that is not yet fully with us, but at the same time is unfolding in our midst (Luke 4:16-30).  As the continuing presence of Christ in the world, the Church continues the work he began to bring Good News to the world and build up that kingdom.  Through the human labor of you and me, through our fruitful stewardship of what has been entrusted to us, we can transform this world and bring forth what humanity needs to grow, develop and flourish because our work reflects the action of God who brought forth all that is.