He promised to pay the workers the “usual daily wage” and sent them off. Coming out later, he found still more workers and sent them to the vineyard as well. He even hired people at the 11th hour. When the day was done, the first group of workers expected to be paid more than the last group, who had only worked for an hour.
When everyone got the same wage, the first workers complained to the owner, who replied: “I do you no injustice…. I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay as you. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
The Lord does not mean this parable to be a strict lesson in labor relations. He wants us to understand that His grace is a pure gift. Whoever is called to follow Christ as a youth does not enjoy any special rank or status above someone called during maturity or even in life’s final moments. The day’s wages for every person is God’s grace. That gift will always be infinitely greater than whatever anyone has done in life. The greatness of God’s plans for us is always superior to our short-range, human ideas or designs.
In the parable, it is the owner (God) who goes in search of workers. When he finds the ones he wants, he calls them and gives them a task: “You go to the vineyard too.” In a similar way, God has called us to do His work in the vineyards that surround us. It is in the midst of our families that we have to become saints. Likewise, it is in our jobs that we meet God and introduce others to Him. We have the graces necessary to carry out an effective apostolate wherever we are. In fact, each of us should be eager to draw others to Christ by the witness of our personal lives.
The sad reality is that many in our world do not know really know Jesus Christ and His Church. This fact should impel us to bring God’s love and the good news of salvation to everyone we encounter. No one who has crossed our paths in this life should be able to say that he was not encouraged, by our words and examples, to love Christ more. None of our friends, none of our relatives, should be able to say at the end of their lives that they had no one who was concerned about them.
There is room for everyone in the vineyard of the Lord: young and old, rich and poor, men and women in the prime of life or getting on in years. It does not really matter when we heard the call of God; what matters is the response of joyful service we give to Him. The workers in the parable, who were standing around in the marketplace, were happy to go and work for the owner. They knew they would receive something for their efforts.
What Jesus shows us in the parable is that what they received (at least in the case of the latecomers) far exceeded their expectations. Even those who were hired early on received a full wage the fullness of God’s salvation, forgiveness and love. This is what God offers to anyone who hears His call and answers it. Let us recognize this invitation to go into the vineyard of the Lord and work for the coming of His kingdom. Let us be thankful for the generosity of God and commit ourselves to His service with a faithful and generous living-out of our responsibilities. In that way, we will be among those who are counted first in the kingdom of God.
Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)