Saturday 17 June 2023

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When we look at our identity, what comes to mind? Some think that identity means the name given to us. Others think that identity refers to our status or popularity. But what is our identity? Who are we really? We are, as the First Reading reminds us, “a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.” Such an identity may make us feel great or even proud. But the reality is that this identity is given to us not merely as an honour, or to “syiok sendiri” or a privilege. This identity is given to us with terms and conditions: it comes with responsibility and mission. In today’s Gospel, we are called by Jesus to take up responsibility and mission and become the labourers in his vineyard: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Notice that we are called to become labourers in his vineyard, and this means each and every one of us are called, not just the priests and the religious.

When it comes to receiving titles and positions such as a Datuk, or Tan Sri, or even Tun, many of us are more than happy to do so. Many of us are also more than happy to receive other peoples’ respect and honour. But how many of us are actually prepared and willing to volunteer ourselves for the work that needs to be done? When the parish or the priests ask for volunteers; when we ask for support from parishioners, how many of us are willing to come forward and help? It seems as if many of us may be proud to be called a Catholic, or proud to be known as a son or daughter of God. But how many of us are prepared and willing to take up the challenge and responsibility of the mission, to be sent as labourers to his harvest? There are people who are always ready to complain and criticise, saying: this is bad; or that is bad, or this is how it ought to be done. There are people who easily give all sorts of suggestions: why don’t we do this or that? But how many people are prepared to do the carry out the tasks or mission, seeing it through with gusto and enthusiasm?

Jesus in today’s Gospel challenges us to participate in his mission to build up God’s kingdom: “to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” When we work for Christ, we should not expect anything in return, such as praise, honour, or even benefits. In fact, we often receive criticism and some of us may even face persecution or even be put to death. Jesus in today’s Gospel also tells us: “You received without charge, give without charge.” Are we prepared to take up this challenge? Are we willing to be sent as labourers to his harvest?

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