“And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner.”
What did the laborers receive that made them grumble? They received the exact amount that the landowner had agreed to pay them at the very beginning, “After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he (landowner) sent them into his vineyard.”
They grumbled not because the landowner was unjust in any way but simply because they had lost the sense of the gift of being called in the very first place. They grumbled about their predetermined wage because they had first become ungrateful for being called to labor in his vineyard and being sustained in their labors all the day long.
What a gift they had received from the landowner! The landowner incessantly left the comfort of his home at all hours of the day to invite laborers into his vineyard. He did not interview them to find out how qualified they were. He did not ask them for application or reference letters from their last jobs. He did not ask them about their past history to see if they were worthy or good enough to be employed in his vineyard.
He simply called them to belong to him and to labor in his vineyard, “You too go into my vineyard.” If the landowner had not called them, no one would have called them as they themselves attested when he asked why they were idle all day, “Because no one has hired us.” Their invitation into his vineyards was indeed a gift of goodness on the landowner’s part.
The landowner also sustained them with all that they needed to labor till the end of the day. It was his vineyard and they found there all that they needed. Without his provisions there is no way that they could “bear the day’s burden and the heat” as they complained that they did. That sustenance was another gift to them for which they also proved ungrateful.
Lastly, the landowner offered them all a wage that did not depend on how much work they had done or how many hours that they had labored. That too was a gift that the grumbling laborers were blind to see. The faithful and joyful laborers among them were those who responded promptly and generously to their call with deep gratitude to the landowner and labored to the very end of the day.
This parable reminds us of why we find ourselves grumbling and complaining even as we serve Jesus Christ in His kingdom of joy.
First, we grumble and complain mainly because we have lost that gratitude of being called to belong to God and to serve Him in His vineyard as His beloved children. No single one of us is worthy to be His servants. Like St. John the Baptist, we too should be saying, “I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals.”(Mk 1:7)
Second, we grumble because we are not grateful for the grace of God that has sustained us in His service all these years despite our weaknesses and challenges in life. We complain about the difficult circumstances and poor results of our service while we ignore the grace of God that has sustained us in those moments. We lack that conviction that without Christ Jesus we can do nothing. (Cf Jn 15:5)
Third, we grumble because we are ungrateful for the life with Christ that we have now and glorious life with Him that awaits us in the life to come. We insist on being paid as we think we deserve because we do not realize that God gives gifts to us His children and not payments. In His mercy, He rewards us over and beyond what we truly deserve. God’s reward system is as mysterious as He is generous, “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Or who has given Him anything that he may be repaid?” (Rom 11:34-35)
Everything is indeed a gift from God’s generous love for us. Our calling to be His servants from baptism is a gift, the grace that sustains us is a gift, and the reward offered to us is a gift and not really a payment. We can only merit life with God in heaven because God offers it to us as a gift in and through Jesus Christ and sustains us with His grace.
St. Paul writes to the Philippians must likely from his prison cell in Rome. He has every reason to complain to God about his imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel. He does not complain or whine about his fate but rather relishes the great gift of being called to belong to Christ and to bear Christ’s life within him, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” He so appreciates the fullness of Christ’s life to come that he is ready to accept death, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.” He is not daydreaming about heaven but, appreciating his call to serve the Gospel, he perseveres in serving Christ even in prison because he is convinced that to live in the flesh “means fruitful labor for him.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how would we describe ourselves today: God’s beloved children called to be faithful and joyful servants in His vineyard or hired workers who work for pay and prone to grumble and complain against God when things do not go our way? Our call to work in His vineyard is to labor for the salvation of souls, a task that demands both our fidelity and our joyfulness. Our joyful fidelity more than anything else draws souls to Christ in His Church. Our grumbling and complaining about our life of service turns people away from Christ.
But today we are seeing a climate of grumbling and complaining against God all around us and in each vocation in the Church. Catholic priests are grumbling about mandatory celibacy. Dissident theologians are complaining that the Church’s teaching need to be changed to accommodate those of gravely immoral behaviors. Parents are reluctant to be open to the gift of new life and to educate their children in the faith. Religious are grumbling because the secular climate makes it difficult for them to be faithful to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Such grumbling shows our ingratitude to God for calling us and this kills any generosity that we should have.
Jesus who comes to us in today’s Eucharist is calling us to know Him better, love Him more, and serve Him more faithfully in His vineyard here on earth so that we can rejoice with Him in His heavenly kingdom. He offers us grace that sustains us and hope of heavenly glory in the future. We will never know true joy until we take His invitation seriously and respond appropriately.
If we are still unable to joyfully answer His call, let us look to Mama Mary. She was the first to say “Yes” to God’s call to her to become His Mother. She served Elizabeth with a joy that was contagious because she was a soul truly grateful for God choosing and gracing her with immense privileges appropriate for His own Mother, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Even the unborn infant John the Baptist could not withstand the Spirit-filled joy of Mary. She did not utter a single word of grumbling against God, His plan for her, or her rewards even in the darkest moments under the cross on Calvary, that moment of greatest injustice in human history.
We only have to beg her to help us say these three things always:
- “Lord, thank you for calling me to belong to you and to serve you in your kingdom.”
- “Lord, thank you for your grace that sustains me always in your service.”
- “Lord, thank you for the fullness of life with you that awaits me in heaven.”
Once we can say these from our hearts and do so with heartfelt conviction, then we are grateful souls ready to serve God faithfully and joyfully all our lives.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!