September 18, 2011: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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 9 a.m., 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 3 p.m., and did likewise. Going out about 5 p.m., the landowner found others standing around … 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 5 p.m. 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.” (Matthew 20:1-16a)
The landowner represents the Lord and the vineyard represents the Kingdom. Wages equal God’s gift or reward for faithful service. It is by grace that God gave the workers work for the day. And, it is also by grace that God rewarded the workers with the wages that he had promised. We are called as Christians to follow God and use our gifts and talents to help others, to be God’s faithful workers today. The disciples (God’s first group of workers) had left everything to follow Christ. They felt that they should get more rewards than others who followed Christ later in the journey.
Do you sometimes feel that your brother or sister unfairly gets more allowance or better gifts than you? We as followers of Christ should be content with what God gives us and not compare it to what God gives others. We need to be ready to respond to the invitation to “work” for God and rejoice in the rewards given by God’s grace. We need to remember that ultimately, God promises that everyone who serves God will be treated justly and rewarded generously.