Matthew 20:1-16
'Called to Work in the Lord's Vineyard' by Rev. Paul deLadurantaye
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

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, he 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.  He went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o'clock, he 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?  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."

There are times in our lives when God grants us special graces to help us find Him.  This week's Gospel parable of the workers in the vineyard illustrates how God works in mysterious ways to draw people to Himself.

"The reign of God," Jesus says, "is like the case of an owner of an estate who went out at dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard."  He promised to pay the workers the "usual daily wage" and sent them off.  Coming out later, he found still more workers and sent them to the vineyard as well.  He even hired people at the 11th hour.

When the day was done, the first group of workers expected to be paid more than the last group, who had only worked for an hour.  When everyone got the same wage, the first workers complained to the owner, who replied: "I do you no injustice . . . I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay as you.  I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not?  Or are you envious because I am generous?

The Lord does not mean this parable to be a strict lesson in labor relations.  He wants us to understand that His grace is a pure gift.  Whoever is called to follow Christ as a youth does not enjoy any special rank or status above someone called during maturity or even in life's final moments.  The day's wages for every person is God's grace.  That gift will always be infinitely greater than whatever anyone has done in life.  The greatness of God's plans for us is always superior to our short-range, human ideas or designs.

In the parable, it is the owner (God) who goes in search of workers.  When he finds the ones he wants, he calls them and gives them a task: "You go to the vineyard too."  In a similar way, God has called us to do His work in the vineyards that surround us.  It is in the midst of our families that we have to become saints.  Likewise, it is in our job that we meet God and introduce others to Him.  We have the graces necessary to carry out an effective apostolate wherever we are.  In fact, each of us should be eager to draw others to Christ by the witness of our personal lives.  The sad reality is that many in our world do not really know Jesus Christ and His Church.  This fact should impel us to bring God's love and the good news of salvation to everyone we encounter.  No one who has crossed our path in this life should be able to say that he was not encouraged, by our word and example, to love Christ more.  None of our friends, none of our relatives, should be able to say at the end of their lives that they had no one who was concerned about them.

There is room for everyone in the vineyard of the Lord: young and old, rich and poor, men and women in the prime of life or getting on in years.  It does not really matter when we heard the call of God; what matters is the response of joyful service we give to Him.  The workers in the parable, who were standing around in the marketplace, were happy to go and work for the owner.  They knew they would receive something for their efforts.  What Jesus shows us in the parable is that what they received (at least in the case of the latecomers) far exceeded their expectations.  Even those who were hired early on received a full wage - the fullness of God's salvation, forgiveness and love. 

That is what God offers to anyone who hears His call and answers it.  Let us recognize this invitation to go into the vineyard of the Lord and work for the coming of His kingdom.  Let us be thankful for the generosity of God and commit ourselves to His service with a faithful and generous living-out of our responsibilities.  In that way, we will be among those who are counted first in the kingdom of God.

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