Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a
First Reading: Isaiah 55 consists of a hymn depicting the messianic end-time banquet to which all are invited. The banquet symbolizes union and intimacy with God, who is near and approachable. The reading focuses on the necessary requisites for entrance into the messianic banquet: repentance and conversion of heart.
Psalm 145: What more could we ask for from the Lord than what the psalmist says? The Lord is gracious and merciful, kind and compassionate, just and holy. That the Lord is slow to anger should comfort us when we sin. The Lord will indeed exhibit patience with us.
Second Reading: Paul established the first Christian community of Philippi and he now writes to them from prison. He understands the core of his faith to be life in Christ. Whether he lives or dies, he knows that he glorifies Christ in his body.
Gospel: The parable of the workers in the vineyard is unique to Matthew’s account of the Gospel and is set in the context of end times and final judgement. The parable focuses on the generosity of the vineyard owner, who willingly gives the last workers hired the same payment as the first.
Reflection: “Because no one has hired us.” So many unemployed people can identify with this plight! High school and college students looking for part-time or summer work often find themselves in this situation. College graduates sometimes spend months looking for a job, with no one hiring them because they have no experience. People caught in downsizing companies often lose their jobs or are pushed to take early retirement. Layoffs and bankruptcies take their toll on jobs. Often there is a willingness to work—the trick is to get hired and to match skills and experience with job openings. Most of us have a strong sense of fairness, not only in seeking employment and being hired, but also in the gospel’s terms of jobs and labor and wages and getting hired. However, if God were to treat us fairly, only giving us what we deserve, we would be poor, indeed. Mercifully, God does not treat us fairly, but with superabundant generosity.
When hearing this gospel, we tend to focus on hours and wages: the laborers understand justice as prorated wages, equitable pay for the number of hours worked. However, this parable is really about God’s ways (see first reading) and God’s justice: what God offers is, not wages, but salvation that is the same for everyone. The surprise of the parable is that salvation is not earned at all, but it is God’s gift to us and God gives it generously.
The parable is about God’s generosity in granting salvation, something we can never deserve but are given because of God’s holiness and God’s ways above our ways. Salvation cannot be measured; it is a most generous gift of our holy God.
God calls us to be laborers in the divine vineyard – a call we first answer at baptism and then continually answer throughout our lives each time we say yes, reach out to others in imitation of God’s goodness and generosity, and cooperate with all God asks of us. This divine, saving “work” is a privilege – we actually share in God’s saving deeds! God uses us to bring salvation to the world. This work has a great dignity about it. This work is a privilege. This work is a lifelong response to God’s invitation to be God’s laborers.
Question for reflection: What gifts have I offered for the growth of the kingdom through my discipleship?
Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.