Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where is Thy Sting?

I can't breathe very well. At all. I have constant back and muscle pain. I can't eat dinner anymore, lest I'm up all night with heartburn. Did I mention my maternity clothes are already getting tight? I can't seem to open my mouth without complaining these days. How could I possibly get bigger than this? Eighty seven days until my due date, but who's counting? OK, maybe I am.

But...

I saw a two week old baby boy in church last Sunday. He was propped up on his father's shoulder just two rows ahead of me, his sleepy little crunched up face tilted sideways. He had a dimpled chin. His little hand rested on his father's shoulder beside his little face, the fingers curled back slightly and spread like a rooster's crest--just as my babies do. How is it that babies are made more beautiful in sleep? I loved him...

I would have been distracted all through Mass, but I really enjoy father's sermons and listened as he unpacked the gospel. "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out to seek workers for his vineyard..." The workers who spent the whole day working were paid the same wages as those who came at the end of the day. I had always understood this to mean that God's ways are not our ways, that He may do as He pleases with his servants and we have no right to complain and that finally, none of us deserves or actually "earns" the kingdom of God in the strictest sense so having worked all the day does not entitle us to more than those who come in the eleventh hour anyway.

Father said all this and then something more I hadn't thought about and that tied in nicely with the reading from St Paul who longed for heaven but (he told the Philippians) wished to labor more on earth, for our sakes, and for the kingdom of God. There was something of a toss up here for St Paul, though he specifically says that to be with Christ is preferable. Father said that laboring in God's vineyard is not fruitless labor. It is not suffering without reward. The work itself is a reward. It is a great honor to be an instrument of God, to work for the kingdom, to be the hands of Christ. As St Paul says, "to complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." In God's vineyard the labor itself is a reward, so who can claim to have labored more and been rewarded less? "What a joy it is," father said, "to be a priest for Christ, to be a father for Christ, to be a mother..."

What a joy it is.

And maybe it was this beautiful weather we've been having, that sweet little baby face two rows ahead, or some happy pregnancy hormones flowing strong, but all I could think is what a joy it is. What a joy it is to be in this third trimester, what an honor. If someone has to suffer heartburn and lack of breath, if somebody has to feel like she's the size of a small apartment building, if somebody is going to have to be sleepless in order to bring one more sleepy little baby boy face into this church and into God's kingdom, I am honored, happy, delighted to step up to the plate. It is joy.

It is my joy.