A good friend of mine was privileged to have his ailing grandfather move in with the family during the latter years of his life. His grandfather had led a difficult life, lost loved ones, and over the years his heart became hardened. He had never been baptized. The family members with whom he was now living periodically would ask if he wanted to be baptized – and he always declined.
The family continued to love and serve grandpa and they lived their Catholic faith with fervor and joy. They prayed for their grandfather. Then one evening one of the family members sensed that she should go into grandpa’s room to see how he was doing, though it was later at night. She walked in. He was sitting up in bed and she asked him if he wanted anything. His response: “I want to be baptized.”
After a lifetime of declining the grace of baptism, he wanted the mercy of God to be poured over him. He was clearly nearing the end of his life. And so the family, having learned the proper formula for an emergency baptism, came in with a dish of water and his daughter poured the water over his head saying “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Grandpa had tears in his eyes. The family was filled with joy. Literally, grandpa then took two more breathes and died. Only moments earlier, a lifetime of hurt and pain and sin was washed away and he was perfectly prepared to meet the Lord Jesus.
It’s never too late to experience the mercy of Jesus. Our gospel passage for this Sunday makes this point quite clear. The landowner hires servants at various points in the day. Then when all those hired are paid, he pays them the same wage. Those hired early in the day are put off by this generosity of the landowner and complain: “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.”
The landowner responds by letting them know that his generosity is not limited by their narrow thinking: “He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’”
Rather than be the envious co-workers, we should be the celebrating family, rejoicing that late in the day the favor of the Lord was given. We should never think it’s too late to approach the mercy of Jesus for ourselves or to hope for our loved ones. The open arms of Jesus are there for us in baptism and reconciliation. We might have people in our hearts who we have been trying to help for years – and it may be that at the very end, they will open their hearts to the mercy of Jesus. For ourselves and for a loved one, it’s never too late to receive the mercy of Jesus.
Jesus, I Trust in You!
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us…
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary