If the field of our soul remain sterile, this fault cannot be imputed to the Father of the family, since He has done for her all He could do. He has placed her in the bosom of the Church, where she receives the abundance of graces which God does not cease to pour out on this blessed soil; He surrounds her with the sacraments, and she participates in all the benefits which Jesus has merited by His death. She has been overwhelmed by every kind of grace and enriched by every blessing. Can she ask of God anything more? In confiding to us the culture of a land thus prepared, has He not the right to expect some fruit in return? Here reflect seriously on yourself; recall the graces you have hitherto received, all the means of sanctification which have been lavished on you, and ask yourself what return you have made ?
Second Point.—The different hours at which the father of the family sends the laborers to his vineyard
mark the different ages at which we give ourselves to the service of God: infancy, youth, mature years, and old age. At all times of our life, the Father of the human race, our first, our truest Father, comes to us to urge us to labor for our sanctification. He it is who always makes the first advances. He goes out to seek us in the public place, that is to say, in the midst of the dissipation's of life, in the tumult of business, in the pleasures of the world. Our very faults do not discourage Him; however great they may be, still His merciful goodness extends a pardon to us, and even urges us to merit it. He exhorts us to labor for our sanctification by the words which His ministers address by us the religious objects which He exposes to our view; by the examples of virtue of which He makes us witnesses; by the disgrace with which He afflicts us; by the sudden deaths with which He visits our imitators and, perhaps, the accomplices of our sins; in a word, by all the circumstances with which He does not cease to surround us He especially exhorts us by the different sentiments which He excites within us. Have no doubt about it: these pious promptings, which you experience, these holy thoughts which are suggested from time to time to your mind, this remorse which troubles you, the inquietude's, which disturb you at the remembrance of your sins—these are all so many inspirations which God sends you and so many exhortations which He addresses you If hitherto you have remained deaf to His invitations you have reason to fear lest He cease to call you and, as it were, pursue you. Do not persevere in a resistance which may be fatal to you; cease to offer your refusal to His tenderness, and have for your soul as much pity as He Himself has for it.
Third Point.-The evening at last had come, and the father of the family said to his steward. "Call the laborers and pay them their hire beginning from the last even to the first. " When the evening of life shall come-that solemn moment when our labors shall have terminated and the recompense shall begin—we shall appear before the Steward, before Jesus, who has been appointed by His Father the Judge of the living and the dead. The soul at her departure from the body, in which she has so long been enclosed, shall see herself suddenly transported to the foot of the supreme tribunal, and the state in which she is found at that moment shall fix her lot for eternity. She shall be for all eternity either adorned and brilliant by the virtues with which she is enriched, or she shall be stained, disfigured, and punished for the sins with which she is covered.
And, perhaps, you are surprised to see the Master of the vineyard giving to all the laborers the same recompense,—the same to those who have labored only an hour as to those who have borne the heat and the burdens of the day. This is a warning which Jesus gives us. He would teach us that God shall dispense His recompense, not according to the time engaged, but according to the fervor which has been brought to the work. He regards the quality rather than the quantity of the labor; He weighs the work instead of counting it. Oh, happy are they who from their early youth have borne the yoke of the Lord; they certainly have great advantages; but, at last, the time of labor can also be rewarded because of the devotion which has been given. The traveler who starts on his journey too late may, by hastening, reach and even pass him who started early in the morning and who walked slowly. And this also explains these other words of the Father of the family, viz.: " The first shall be last and the last shall be first. " Our divine Saviour does not wish us to understand that they who begin late in the service of God shall, therefore, precede those who shall have served Him early. Far from us this thought which is so injurious to divine justice and wisdom, and which should be calculated to encourage a delay of conversion so severely condemned. The sense of these words is, simply, that among those who are last in the order of their vocation very many shall become first in the order of glory that we shall see sinners converted, more penetrated by humility, more inflamed by charity than certain just men; and that they who shall have labored for their salvation but a short time, and more effectively, shall surpass those who shall have labored a longer time, but with less zeal and ardor. O my God, how long Thou hast already called me and I have always resisted the voice of Thy grace.
Today Thou callest me still, and I wish to profit by this new appeal to labor in Thy vineyard, that is to say, for my salvation, with promptitude, since I have lost so much time; with fidelity, since all my moments belong to Thee; with perseverance since the recompense is given only to those who labor until evening has come; with courage to repair the lost time; with fervor, since Thy recompense shall be measured, not by the time spent in Thy service, but by the ardor with which it shall be accomplished.
Source: Short Instructions for Every Sunday of the Year and the Principal Feasts, Imprimatur 1897