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I think this Sunday’s Gospel contains one of Jesus’ most difficult parables. It is the parable of the landowner who went out at various times of the day to hire laborers for his vineyard. When the time came to pay the workers they were all paid the same, even those who were hired late in the day. When those who were hired first complained about this the landowner said: “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?”
Now as I have mentioned previously parables are not meant to be taken literally. They are simply stories that Jesus used to tell us something about God or about our relationship with God. The point of a parable occurs when our sense of what is right or proper is troubled. In the case of today’s parable that point occurs is when everyone is paid the same. We need to understand that this parable was not meant to tell us something about laborers or wages. Rather it is a story about God’s love. It reminds us that God’s love is different from human love. God loves all of us freely, equally, and without measure. It doesn’t matter when we come to God or let God into our lives.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Now usually the first reading and the Gospel reading share a common theme. (The second reading may continue that theme, but more often it is a continuous reading usually from one of Paul’s letters.) I think the link between the first reading today and the Gospel is found in the words from the first reading. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
Our second reading this Sunday is from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians. In the section we read this weekend, Paul rejoices that Christ will be glorified whether he lives or dies. He then urges the Philippians: “Only conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. The laborers in this Gospel today grumbled against the landowner because they didn’t think he was being fair. Have you ever grumbled against God?
2. Through the prophet Isaiah God told the people that God’s thoughts were not their thoughts nor their ways God’s ways. Has there been a time when you haven’t understood God’s ways and/or thoughts?
3. What does it mean for you to conduct yourself in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ?