I just love Matthew 20 and “The Workers in the Vineyard”. The homily I heard about it was all great about how it isn’t Justice that God grants but Mercy. Yes, so true! But that is not exactly what I like to focus on.
(Also the priest mentioned that Jewish people would have been familiar with this story since it was one that Rabbis told — however, in the Rabbi-told version the workers hired in the last hour did a whole day’s worth of work in that one hour — and so earned the full day’s wages by their efforts. But Jesus doesn’t say that at all — it isn’t a prerequisite for God’s Mercy. So amazing!)
But to begin my own thoughts on this parable… This parable makes me want to categorize people into the following…
- If you work for the Church or if you have volunteered for the Church for many years it is like you are a worker who was hired at dawn. You have spent many of your days laboring for God. You are great people and you are doing God’s work. You know the importance of the vineyard and so you labor willingly and happily in it.
- If you go to Church and lead a life trying to follow God it is like you were hired at 9 o’clock or Noon or 3 o’clock. You are great people and you are working to keep God in your life and bring about His work. You may have gone to Church for years. Or maybe you go just occasionally or maybe you are a “newbie” at trying to follow God. You know enough to want to be in God’s vineyard and so you do what you can to get there. You haven’t been in the vineyard as long as others, but you understand that you are meant to be in God’s vineyard.
- Now that leaves the group of those found at 5 o’clock. Just standing around waiting to find God. You may not even know He exists. You may not even know that He is calling you. But once you discover Him you willingly follow Him. You may not have a long time working to bring about His Kingdom but you are “in”. Whatever brought you out of your idleness and to God has saved you. You may have gone most of a lifetime unknowing or even denying the importance of God’s vineyard – but in the final hour you came to realize that that is where you are meant to be – and so you go.
Amen! Amen! So many souls saved! God is merciful! You don’t have to have followed Him your whole life to be granted His Mercy. If you recognize the value of His vineyard you are granted access to it.
But here is the part of the parable that annoys me — in that, when people talk about this parable they don’t talk about it. “So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner” (Mt 20: 10-11)
The vision I get when I hear this are those who have led a long life toiling for God – putting in hours working in the Church, volunteering as CCD teachers or with various programs/social causes. They are those in the Church who think that working for God will earn them greater grace than anyone else. And God does not work like that. Who do they think they are to complain about God’s mercy? They should be REJOICING in the fact that so many have been saved – that so many have labored for God in His vineyard no matter how shortly or no matter how long.
God grants each of us the same love and mercy — if we follow Him we will reach His Kingdom and we will each inherit the same beautiful, undescribableness that is Heaven. Why do we think our Heaven would be any better than someone else’s? It is all one Heaven – of God’s infinitely superior design.
Also, my categorizations may be completely terrible and inaccurate. And you may think that you are someone who has been laboring in the vineyard all day because you have devoted so much of your life to following God’s work and will. But when you get to Heaven you might discover that actually you were someone who was hired in the last hour. How would you feel then? Would you want others to grumble against you?
Do not think you are deserving “a full day’s wages” and that others are not – maybe you are someone who joined just in that final hour. Be grateful that God doesn’t grant Justice but grants Mercy!
“The Lord is Kind and Merciful” – It is that Mercy that makes no one better than anyone else. No matter who you are or what you do or what you have done or not done – if you find yourself in God’s vineyard you are granted the same Mercy as everyone else. And you should be fine with that! God tells you to be fine with that – IT IS HEAVEN PEOPLE! Heaven is the ultimate “payment” for becoming a worker in His vineyard – for no matter how long or how short – and let us be grateful we are each “paid” the same.
Gospel MT 20:1-16A
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
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?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”