What, for me, is the parable of the Vineyard labourers saying?
Firstly, it is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is telling us the kind of God our God is - the God revealed by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father in the person of his Son Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is a God who seeks us his fallen human creatures from dawn to dusk i.e. from the dawn of creation to the end of time. His one desire is to reunite the whole human race to Himself in Christ. It is through the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the parable we see those called at daybread and right through the day to the 11th hour. At the close of the parable we see how the words of the 1st Reading at Mass are borne out - that God's ways are not our ways. We see the utter generosity and love of God in His payment of the workers - the last comers receiving one denarius like those called at daybreak and receiving it first! The first comers who had borne the heat of the day compared their lot with those who had come at the 11th hour and became very dissatisfied to the point of almost scorning the denarius on which they had agreed. Some of us might have a sneaking sympathy for them!
Where did they, and if so ourselves, go wrong? They were working out of strict duty, obligation and rights - love was lacking. They had not come to know, in the biblical sense, their Master, so did not love Him or His ways. Our brother, St Albert the Great, speaks of the denarius of Eternal Life, which is sheer gift. Listen to St Paul to the Ephesians (2:8) "It is by grace that you have been saved through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift of God; not by anything you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit".
St Paul's response to God's grace was total. As he tells us in the 2nd reading for this Mass, "life to me, of course, is Christ but then death would bring me something more" - eternal life with Christ. He was torn between "wanting to be gone and be with Christ" and staying behind to spread the Gospel "which is a more urgent need for your sake". We too are called to "long to be with Christ" but we have to realise the great opportunity our time on earth gives us to bring others to Christ and to Eternal Life by the grace of God. We must remember especially in prayer the labourers who were called at "daybreak", that is the Chosen People,the Jews, that the Lord will hasten the day when they will be grafted on again to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.
I will leave the final word to St Paul again, "glory be to Him whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen."
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