It is a spiritual curiosity how God speaks to us all the time, but often distracted, we cannot hear. But our faithful God is persistent, knocking constantly on our hearts. Save Our Souls is the crafty name of a beer house along the Chao Phraya. As I worked my way through the taps, I mused over the name amid our culture of authority and hierarchy, and of how we sometimes find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’.

“He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go,” but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir,” but did not go.” (Today’s Gospel)

The church is outside its doors, it has always been. Today, social issues caused by the pandemic has only underlined this in an urgent way; God knocking on our hearts to address this pastoral need. There are many people out there bogged by personal issues. They will always be. It puts people into a search, seeking to understand life, searching for its meaning. Some end up at mass in church.

Save Our Souls is not only a cry upwards, but also a cry sideways. We are in this together. At every mass, there are people who come but will not fully partake of the sacraments. In the pews, there are people not yet baptised. Yet, they come. After everyone leaves, there is a lone person kneeling in desperate prayer. The reason they come. Should we do more to reach out to them, can we? We can only do so when we acknowledge our togetherness in life. We need to look out for one another. Save Our Souls is this collective cry.

“There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first, but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.” (Second Reading)

Ite, missa est. Go, it is the sending. At the end of every mass we are sent outside the doors, into the world. The celebrant says, “The mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”. We are sent into this togetherness, to reduce this competition. We the laity, are sent to be pastoral, to be shepherd to them who need direction. We respond, “Thanks be to God”. We make a promise, we say “yes, I will go”. This is a good time for musing. Which of these two sons am I?

The Church has a hierarchy, which itself is not bad. But we the lay can do more so that it does not remain too clerical. Go, we are sent, the church is outside its doors. The lay faithful are called to rise, and to serve in today’s world where there is now a wide chasm between seeker and church because personal issues are getting more complex and church teachings alone cannot bridge this chasm. Knowledge and information no longer have the same authority without testimonies of personal encounters of the Gospel. Go, we are sent, to authenticate the Gospel.

Even without this pandemic, we have already been suffering a poverty of faith. Around us are many seekers sending out an s.o.s for direction. We the laity are placed in this vineyard to pick up such calls. We did say yes, did we not, or did we mean no?

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time