25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This Sunday’s Gospel is a difficult one for many of us to understand and agree with. Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard and the landowner who goes out and hires them. The landowner goes out at dawn and hires the laborers at the usual daily wage. He then goes out later in the morning and sees others standing “idle” and hires them and tells them “I will give you what is just.” (for their pay) He does the same throughout the day including the hour of 5pm. At the end of the day when all the workers come to be paid including those who had not worked long at all, they all receive the same pay. When those first workers received their payment, they thought they would receive more and so they complained to the landowner. “The last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us.” They speak of the long hours in the hot sun and the unfairness of it all. The landowner basically tells them all, that he has not cheated any of them and that he is free to do with his own money what he wishes and that they all received what they had agreed upon.
Obviously, this landowner is extremely generous and compassionate. As we look at this parable in our own lives we too may think that this is extremely unfair and not understand why Jesus tells this story and why the landowner does what he does.
I think back to high school years and some of the jobs I had in restaurants. How would I have felt if I worked an 8-hour shift and other staff came in for one hour and barely took an order, cleaned a table, or assembled an order for takeout if they walked away with the same amount? I am sure my reaction would have been the same as those early morning laborers and I am sure I would have complained to the boss. Think about you and if you are currently working how would you feel? Even if you don’t have a job currently does this seem fair to you?
This parable that Jesus shared with His disciples is about so much more than fair and just and right payment. It is really a story about being invited into the life of Christ and seeing things through His eyes. It’s a story of God’s great mercy and generosity. It’s a story of the truth, that it is never too late to turn to Him.
Like the laborers in the parable there are many of us who accept Jesus’s invitation to follow Him later in life. In fact, maybe some of us are still struggling with our yes to God and being in relationship with Him now. Or perhaps as is the case often in our faith life, we too are sitting around “idle” and just going through the motions. Perhaps we really don’t embrace the daily work of our relationship with Jesus which can change our very hearts and lives.
Whatever the case may be for you in this moment now, we should listen and hear this passage as an invitation to “get to work”. God has invited us to this amazing life of faith, and He simply asks for our yes. It is never too late to encounter Jesus and live the life we are called to. We have a loving and merciful and generous God, who waits for us and is always for us even when we come late to the vineyard.