10/17/2008

Parable of the Day Laborers

A short time ago, the Gospel at Mass was the Parable of the Day Laborers:
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. 11 When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

As I listened to the Gospel, two thoughts struck me:
  1. If our reward for living a Christian life is the infinite reward of eternity in heaven, how do you give latecomers a fraction of what the original laborers received? INFINITE IS INFINITE. What is half of an infinite amount? Yes, an infinite amount!. What is one quarter of an infinite amount? An infinite amount! How much is one one-hundredth of an infinite amount? One one-billionth of an infinite amount? Yes, our reward no matter how divided is still infinite!
  2. The first laborers spent the entire day certain of their reward. They agreed to a fair wage and knew what they would get at sundown. But the same cannot be said of those who were hired later. How much of the day did they spend worrying about how they would feed their family that night? Having collected my first unemployment check this year, I can tell you that time spent not working and wondering how you will feed your family is no vacation. (And there is no more depressing thing than being told "we won't hire you because you're overqualified", Thankfully, God does not follow HR "best practices".).
The parable was designed to demonstrate God's infinite love and power to an agrarian audience, but it rings just as true today. Perhaps we shouldn't worry so much about the election or our struggles in daily life, because we know that at the end of the day all who toil in this vineyard will receive our infinite reward.



posted by Mike at 12:44 PM


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