From the Catholic Liturgy for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sept. 24, 2017. Gospel: Mt 20:1-16.
Theme: – The Free Gift and Call of God. When people hear today’s Gospel most come away thinking, "That sure doesn't sound very fair to me! The guys who put in an hour's work ended up getting as much money as those who sweat it out in the sun all day long!" Now, if Jesus had intended to give us a course in business ethics and hiring practices, then these people would be right! But we must remember that this story is a parable, that is, a simple fictitious story told to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson and to begin to understand it, we have to look at the symbolism used by Jesus. You see, in this parable the landowner is God. The vineyard is the Kingdom of Heaven. And the workers are you and me, that is, everyone on planet Earth. The various hours of the day represent the different times in life that God’s call can come to us. I think there are 3 main lessons here…
1) The Call originates with God, it is his initiative…This is important to remember because it teaches us something that, it seems to me, most people I meet - including many Catholics - seem to forget: that we have no right to Heaven, to eternal life. Humanity, in the persons and choices of our first parents, Adam and Eve, gave up God's original invitation to Paradise, to the Vineyard, by choosing to sin, to live life on our own terms and according to our own desires. And each one of us has agreed with Adam and Eve each time we have personally chosen to sin…so we can’t just blame them!
2) But God calls each one of us in a particular and individual way and at a time in our lives when he might be most open to saying “yes”. When God look out at us humans, all standing around on planet Earth, like those men in the parable with nothing to do and waiting for work, He doesn’t just see billions of faces all lost in the crowd. No, God sees the individual, He sees you and me personally, and not just our faces but our hearts, our minds, our most intimate selves. And he calls us in a time and in a manner in which we might be most open to saying “yes” to going into the Vineyard.
3) And lastly, responding to the Call of God requires work, effort, on our part. We just don’t say “yes, thank you, God” to the call and keep standing around doing nothing! We respond in faith to the invitation to the Vineyard by building up our relationship with God through prayer and the sacraments, by laboring over the reformation of our lives, by being of service to others. In the parable, these good works are symbolized by the sweat and labor of the workers, because as St. Paul tells us, co-operating with God's grace requires a lot of hard work on as we make our way through this world with all its distractions and temptations.
So, let's thank God for this free underserved unearned gift of His grace. Let's praise Him for inviting us into the Vineyard of the kingdom although he has no need to do so. And let's ask him to strengthen our hard work as we labor to be found worthy, at the end of our lives, to inherit the free unearned undeserved gift of eternal life.