For the next few Sundays, the Gospel message brings us once again outside. This time, we are not following Christ to see what He is going to do next, hoping we’ll witness a miracle or taking delight in Him silencing the opposition. Instead prepare yourself for some heavy lifting for He talks to us about the importance of hard work, not just for a living, but also for the sake of eternal life.
Our salvation rests upon the solid foundation of our faith in Christ and the good works God’s grace allows us to do. Both faith and good works do not come naturally to us. They demand that we actively cooperate with God’s grace in every situation we encounter. Christ’s parable of the owner of the vineyard continually going out to search for workers, at dawn, then at noon and once again in the late afternoon and then in the evening giving every worker, regardless of how many hours the worked, the same salary, should remind us of a few simple but eternal truths.
First, we may often complain that God isn’t fair. But that’s true! He does not play by our own rule book. If we wanted Him to do so, we would be trying to fashion God in our own image and likeness according to our own standards of fairness and justice. A small child may complain to their parent that they are not being fair. The parent does not need to explain their rationale, except to assure the child that tough love is indeed love. God reminds us in this Sunday’s first reading:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6–9
Second, this Sunday’s Gospel will also remind us that we should be always grateful to God for sending particular individuals into our lives at different times or for sending us into their life when the time is right. Because only God sees all time and human history (past, present and future), each one of us exist and interact at a certain time, in a particular place, within a unique context, but never by accident. St. Paul accepted this, without understanding why. In the second reading for Sunday he writes:
I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a.
In short, as we try to look at the big picture of the events of our lives and our nation that unfold before us, we can never see it from the perspective of eternity. Only God can and He does, knowing that His loving plan will unfold according to mind alone, not ours. If we trust Him, that makes God, in our sight, not reckless or laid back, but prudent! It’s always the right time to be prudent.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they 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 the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘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? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”