Year A: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 20: 1-16
In Jesusí time, people who were looking for casual work would stand in the market place or at crossroads and hope that someone would come along to hire them. The job would be discussed and the rate of pay agreed and an informal contract would be agreed.
The landowner in todayís Gospel is offering a fair dayís pay for a fair dayís work and those who started work in the vineyard in the morning were obviously satisfied with it.
The problem arose at the end of the day when those who had come to work later also received one denarius - very fair pay for only an hourís work!
Understandably, the people who had worked all day are aggrieved - it is patently unfair that they should get the same as people who had done only a fraction of the work they had.
As the landowner points out, however, they have received what they had agreed to - no more - no less. He had honoured his agreement - the fact that he had chosen to be generous to the latecomers was his choice and he was not accountable to the workers for it.
We can, unfortunately, be rather like the workers - except that the stakes are rather higher than a dayís wage. God has offered us eternal life and asks us to serve Him in this world until the day when we are with Him for ever.
The problem is that we can be tempted to think that - if we work harder at this than anyone else - or serve God for longer - then somehow, this gives us greater credit in Godís eyes. It is very easy to feel resentful at the idea that someone having a death-bed conversion after a life of self-indulgence might receive the same reward as us. At one level, it is not fair!
At another - what reward could be greater than eternal happiness as a child of God in heaven? Not one of us can ever earn eternal life - however hard we work - it is purely a gift of God.
Thankfully, God is never outdone in generosity - and, as recipients of that generosity ourselves, we should rejoice that others receive it too - and learn too to make that generosity a model for our own lives.
What does it mean for me?
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