So much has happened since 1930. It’s not my intention to go through our ninety-year-old history. But it is important to remember those who have written this history of ours. We remember our pastors, our spiritual leaders. St Paul’s has been blessed by pastors who have selflessly given so much to our people, starting from the Augustinian Fr Alphonse Cauchi, going through the many Franciscans who lovingly ministered during their almost 50 years of presence in our parish until it was entrusted to us Paulist Missionaries. Then there are the many lay people who have made St Paul’s their second home, people who have given much of their time and energy to the wellbeing of the parish. As I roam around the place I sense the presence of these people in every brick and every church-pew. Just like in every other family, they have gone through hard times and good ones, they have laughed, celebrated and shed tears. They have gone through times of joys and times of discouragement, times when they must have wondered whether this is all worth it. But forge ahead they did. Because, ultimately they believed that was the right thing to do. To all these people, we are very, very grateful.
I was thinking of all this while I was reflecting on today’s gospel. Jesus tells the story of the father who approaches his two sons, asking them to go work in the family’s vineyard. The first one hesitated, probably conscious of the hardships involved, or perhaps just due to the fact that he was not in the mood of working. Still, upon further reflection he changed his mind and went, deciding that that was the right thing to do. The other one, who did not dare being seen as disobedient, said that he would go, but never turned up. Those who heard the story had no difficulty concluding that it was the first one who did the right thing.
As a community of believers we are all called to be present in the Father’s vineyard. It is our home. Depending on our vocation in life, we are all called to give our share and participate in the mission of Jesus. Whether as parents or grandparents, pastors or friends, the calling is for everybody. There will be times when we do not feel like it, or times when we might feel discouraged. We do go through those moments when we are tempted to give everything up.
We continue to walk on the journey our predecessors have started. They knew that being part of a parish community is different to being a spectator. They gave their part. Like all of us they were not perfect. They made mistakes, but they were good enough to correct and move on. In the gospel Jesus praises the tax collectors and prostitutes (two categories of people considered as amongst the biggest sinners in his time) who listened to the call for conversion. Being a Christian does not mean being perfect!
As a parish community we are called to continue together on our journey of faith. We are called to continue to give witness to our God who is always present and continuously loving. We are called to encourage and help each other grow. We are called to help others experience what we have freely received. Sometimes we might feel discouraged and tempted to give up. Those who came before us inspire us to move on. Because, deep down, we know that that’s the right thing to do.