Today we consider the reaction of the workers who were hired at different times of the day to work in the vineyard. At the end, the owner of the vineyard paid them the same amount. The ones who were first, grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and heat.” The landowner replied to one of them, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous? This landowner is God himself.
The Prophet Isaiah helps us to understand the ways of God. Through the prophet, God tells us “ My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Jesus uses this parable today to address different situations in which we find ourselves. God had called us at different times to work in His vineyard. Some have served God from their childhood; some became Christians in their midlives; some still became Christians at the eleventh hour of their lives; and some became reconciled with God in their death-bed. In the end, God will reward each person with the gift of the Kingdom. Eternal life is that daily wage that each person receives. One should receive it without grumbling that he or she had served God longer than others who had received the same.
To work in the Lord’s vineyard, means to seek the ways of God and do the will of God as it is revealed to Isaiah. Seeking God means changing our way of life and conforming to God’s way, which is different from ours. It entails being open to the word of God, which is so powerful enough, to change us and accomplish in us what it is sent forth for. The starting point for working in the Lord’s vineyard, is to attain the conversion God wants in our lives, which is not merely turning away from sins and moral corruption, but which is a radical change in our way of looking at God. It calls on us to live out God’s attributes of love, mercy, caring for all, generosity, compassion and other ways.
There are various lessons we learn from the parable of Jesus today, God is generous. In his generosity, he rewards all alike. The second lesson is that we do not buy and sell with God. In his goodness, God bestows his love, goodness and blessings upon all his children. We cannot merit anything by our own acts. It is no longer a merit centered morality but a grace centered morality in which everything is a gift from God himself. As the Psalmist tells us in one of the psalms, “No one can buy his own ransom, for the prize of such, is too great.” God has already done that for us, by sending His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ to die for us. We are redeemed through the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We can only accept this precious gift of God by honoring His invitation to come into His vineyard and to work, either for our whole life or at any moment in our life-time. The parable of Jesus today affirms the free gift of God’s grace, the equal status for all in God’s Kingdom, and a warning that the last will be first and the first last.
All that matters is that we live for Christ. With St. Paul, let each of us say: “Christ will be exalted through me, whether I live or die. For, to me, ‘life’ means Christ; hence dying is so much gain.” This is a call made to all. May God give us the Spirit and the grace to answer it through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen