It always seemed strange to me that the things we admire in men: kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest: sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second. – John Steinbeck
(Gospel Text: Matthew 20:1-16)
Jesus said to his disciples, «This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again at about nine in the morning, and seeing others idle in the square, he said to them: ‘You, too, go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just’. So they went. The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour —it was the eleventh— and he saw others standing there. So he said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the whole day?’ They answered: ‘Because no one has hired us’. The master said: ‘Go and work in my vineyard’.
»When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager: ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first’. Those who had come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each (a silver coin). When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. So, on receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat’. The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don't I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why are you envious when I am kind?’. So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last».
These words are music to the ears of anyone who is unemployed. It means your talents and skills are valued. It’s a chance to be productive and, of course, financially rewarded! God wants to hire you today as well: “You too go into my vineyard” (Matthew 20:7). No matter what “hour” of life you’re in, he is sending you into the world to spread the good news of Jesus’ love. And in the end, you will be rewarded one hundredfold.
Here is the question many people may ask themselves after reading today’s gospel: Why work for the Lord if you don't get paid or if you get paid only as much as those who haven't worked as hard or as long as you did?
The answer is simple – Love!
Love is the reason we work for the Lord. Love is the reason the Lord lived, worked, and died for us. God is Love (1 Jn 4:16). Although we may indeed be paid on earth for serving the Lord and although we will receive our reward in heaven, the Lord does not want us to work primarily for pay but for love.
Luckily for us, God's justice exceeds our schemes. If it would be a matter of mere and strict justice, we would not have any hope of redemption. In strict justice, we should not deserve any redemption: we would simply remain disowned of what we were given in the moment of Creation with the original sin of Adam and Eve.
So, when we have to deal with others let us examine ourselves first.
But even with such a generous employer as God, how many of us actually want to be hired for this task? Some might ask: “Lord, isn’t there something else you need me to do?” No, the harvest is too great!
The world is aching for God, whether it realizes it or not. People “thirst” for an answer to their brokenness. They’re longing for a reason to hope. Be that hope for others by “plugging” into God!