Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Open the door of your heart

There are times when people come to the office on Saturdays or Sundays and when I answer, often it is a person in need of financial aid and looking for material help. I have learned from too many experiences that the right thing to do is to take the time and listen to the person, even if I am suspicious. There have been times when I have met someone who truly was in need –in danger from an abusive spouse, or fleeing from a gang, wanting help with a teen that was out of control, or just in need of a temporary hand to get back on track; or simply wanting to be reminded that they are a human being that is worth listening to.

God steps in to remind me that not all people are working a system. For weeks, months, or even years later, I’ll get a phone call of thanks, or a check for repayment in the mail, or someone comes to the receptionist like they did in Napa and says— “I was helped a while ago and my life is turned around, I’d like to donate to help others.” Someone came up to me recently in the church and said. “I’ve prayed for you ever since I met you when I needed some food to tide me over—I’ve got a job and we’re doing great—thank you.” Such kindness and sincerity may not always happen, but it has taught me to be more patient and meet the person rather than make a harsh judgment that could be false as well. The last will be first and the first will be last.

So often God turns the tables on us and shows us His presence. Not just in the obvious people, but often where we least expect to see God, often where we would not expect to be blessed by God. As the prophet, Isaiah reminds us: God’s ways are not our ways. For God’s love and mercy are boundless, without conditions open to all God’s people.

And at times we may feel that we are doing what is Christian, serving, helping, charity work, and those are greatly needed yet sometimes we ignore the people we are trying to aid by not truly connecting with them. We can miss God’s nearness in the people coming to be helped. We can remain comfortable in our charitable activities, but uncomfortable, with those whom we want to serve. Perhaps it is because they may appear to be different than us. And God says, never mind your work; meet these people for they can bless you!

The last will be first and the first will be last. Our readings also remind us that there are always times in our life and faith journey when we need to regain a sense that God is active in all people around us. We need to remember that God’s grace is open to all equally—no favorites; whether a cradle Catholic or a new comer to the faith or one sitting on the fence. God is connected to all His children, who God loves equally and holds in His hands.

So often when we see someone less fortunate and say, “but for the grace of God go I”, we need to think what we mean by those words—is God’s grace not open to that homeless person—are they truly graceless and we’re God’s favored ones? Of course not, we are to share the blessings we’ve received in a witness of gratitude to God. Then our hands become God’s hands as we help answer prayers and reach out to help provide for a stranger in need and truly meet them.  Our hands are God’s hands when we reconcile with an estranged family member and end hatred and division, or when we reach out to someone who is homebound and alone and let them know they are not alone, not last, but first for someone does care.

It is the sign of our contract our covenant with Jesus to make a difference—to get to know one another to love more fully. Each reach we make, multiplies the harvest of Jesus’ vineyard—and brings the kingdom of God closer.

As often as we turn to the Lord, he will always bless us by focusing on what truly matters in our lives, in this community, in this world—it is our humanity made in God’s image. Our hands are God’s hands when Christ’s love is our love in the work of our hands—and hearts. The last will be first and the first will be last.