25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mt 20:1-16
1 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like this. Once there was a man who went out early in the morning to hire some men to work in his vineyard.
2 He agreed to pay them the regular wage, a silver coin a day, and sent them to work in his vineyard.
3 He went out again to the market place at nine o’clock and saw some men standing there doing nothing,
4 so he told them, ‘You also go and work in the vineyard, and I will pay you a fair wage.’
5 So they went. Then at twelve o’clock and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
6 It was nearly five o’clock when he went to the market place and saw some other men still standing there. ‘Why are you wasting the whole day here doing nothing?’ he asked them.
7 ‘No one hired us,’ they answered. ‘Well, then, you also go and work in the vineyard,’ he told them.
8 “When evening came, the owner told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with those who were hired last and ending with those who were hired first.’
9 The men who had begun to work at five o’clock were paid a silver coin each.
10 So when the men who were the first to be hired came to be paid, they thought they would get more; but they too were given a silver coin each.
11 They took their money and started grumbling against the employer.
12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘while we put up with a whole day’s work in the hot sun – yet you paid them the same as you paid us!’
13 ‘Listen, friend,’ the owner answered one of them, ‘I have not cheated you. After all, you agreed to do a day’s work for one silver coin.
14 Now take your pay and go home. I want to give this man who was hired last as much as I have given you.
15 Don’t I have the right to do as I wish with my own money? Or are you jealous because I am generous?’ ”
16 And Jesus concluded, “So those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last.”
Other readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Jesus tells this parable to teach us something about God and his new kingdom. It’s not intended as a comment about social justice.
As in other parables, God is the owner and the vineyard his kingdom. At different times of the day he hires people to come and work in his vineyard. Perhaps the workers who were hired last were the ones no one else wanted. Surprisingly, when the wages are paid everyone gets the same. Those who toiled for 12 hours get exactly the same as those who only put in an hour right at the end.
The “wage”, or reward, is really a covenant promise: eternal life in God’s presence. It’s not a reward for kingdom service but is God’s gift. God doesn’t measure out his love and grace so that some get more and others less. God lavishes his grace on whomever he chooses. The truth is that everyone, including those who have had the privilege of serving God for a long time, gets more than they deserve.
What does this parable teach us about our attitude to serving God, our pride and our attitude to our fellow Christians? Are we jealous of others? The owner hired workers that no one wanted. What can we learn from this? What does this parable teach us about God’s character?
The owner sought out new workers several times during the day, underlining his urgency to see the harvest finished on time. Jesus urged his disciples to ask God to send more workers to bring in the harvest. Pray that the Church will have enough workers for the mission. Ask what part you can play in sharing the Gospel and nurturing disciples.
Reflect on these verses from Isaiah 55:8-9: “ ‘My thoughts,’ says the Lord, ‘are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.’ ”
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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