Today’s Gospel reminds us of God’s mercy. One major point our Lord makes is that we are to be thankful for His generous gift of mercy. But in the parable we notice some grumbling. This may remind us of a character in another parable, the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Of course it is wrong to resent God’s lavish mercy given to others. We are called to be thankful that someone has been saved. We should rejoice that God has compassion on everyone he has created. Furthermore, this Gospel is consoling for us if we have loved ones who remain far from the Lord’s vineyard.
We have received an invitation. We are called to be faithful laborers in God’s vineyard. We are called to help to bring about the kingdom, to do some good in the world. It’s a matter of stewardship. Our lives are not our own. Every day is God’s gift. Every day is an opportunity to love. We have a job to do so that more people can know Him.
We are honored to work in the vineyard. The landowner in the parable represents God. The vineyard represents God’s Kingdom. Therefore, marketplace represents the world. We are called out of the marketplace of the world into the vineyard of God’s Kingdom. We become members of the Church by being called. The English and German words for “Church” come from the Greek word “Kyriakon” which means “of the Lord.” So, if we are the Lord’s, we were called out from where we were. The Spanish and Italian words for “Church” come from the Greek word, “ecclesia” which means those who are called out.
St. Gregory the Great asks how energetically are we working in the vineyard? Will our friends or relatives be able to say at the end of their lives that we were concerned about their ultimate good? When we look at our lives, we should notice this is the location of the vineyard. This is where God inserted us. This is where he invites us to work. It is in our very own family setting where God has invited us to become saints. The temptation is to wait for “better opportunities” or for things to become more perfect. Waiting is idleness. The spiritually idle are those who don’t know Christ. Of course, this is not good. Many people will or will not know Christ because of our example. St. John Paul II says there is no place for idleness.
Through the Prophet Isaiah in our first reading, God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” Jesus further illustrates it in the parable. The landowner is relentless in inviting laborers into his vineyard. He goes out five times. God is taking the initiative in reaching out to us all the time. We are unworthy. We have rejected him every time we fall into sin. Why don’t we hear him? Maybe we’re not praying. Maybe we’re distracted by trivial things of the world. Plus, he’s hiring rejects. That’s why they haven’t been hired yet. The worldly mindset says the rejects get rewarded but not at the level as the elite. Jesus challenges that mindset.
In the parable, why did some laborers grumble? Perhaps it shows a lack of conversion of heart. St. Thomas Aquinas: “he is properly evil who sorrows over goodness.” Even if we have been in the Lord’s vineyard our whole life, He is still calling us to continual conversion. In our continual conversion, we grow in the virtue of charity, the greatest of all virtues. The more enlarged my heart is from practicing charity, the more reward I will be able to accept which is the Lord’s free gift. If we develop habits of practicing charity we will recognize the Lord who is Charity. If charity is foreign to us, the One who is Charity will be foreign to us. That’s why we reject Him when He calls us.
We also notice the landowner didn’t force workers to come to his vineyard. He invited them. This reminds me of the saying: God created us without our consent, but he will not save us without our cooperation. God respects our consent. That’s why the reward can be so awesome. That’s why the laborer can receive the wages that are coming to him. These wages are God’s blessings. His ultimate blessing upon us is Himself, communion with Him now and Heaven for eternity. Heaven = God. The workers hired late were headed toward eternal rejection, but thanks be to God, they accepted his invitation. What about us? Perhaps we can recognize God’s mercy and generosity and accept His invitation to continual conversion.
Some scholars say that those hired early in the parable represent the Israelites, and those hired later represent the Gentiles, the people of the other nations. It is also equally valid to say those hired early represent cradle Catholics who stay faithful, and those hired later represent converts and reverts to the faith. Our attitude should always say “Welcome home!”
Call to conversion is for all. Our first reading says it well: “Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts.” That’s you and me because we have fallen into sin. Then Isaiah continues: “Let him turn to the Lord for mercy.” We enter into these sacred mysteries where God offers us an abundance of grace so that we can be effective in sharing Christ with the world. We can follow the command of St. Paul: Conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.