Matthew 20: 1-16a
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear about the parable of the landowner, who goes out at various points of the day to hire laborers and when it is time to pay them, they each get the same wage whether the started work early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Obviously, this does not sit well with the laborers that started the day first as they expected higher wages since the last laborers received the same wages and worked less time. This Gospel is in many ways very similar to the “Prodigal Son”, but that is for another day. The crux of the parable is contained in the following section of the Gospel reading between the landowner and the first laborers of the day:
“These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the days burden and the heat. He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Now I have read this Gospel passage many times, and thought the same as the first laborers, “This isn’t fair. They worked less than we did.” The important point to consider here is the laborers are thinking as humans do because they are …. humans. God thinks as God does, and we struggle to comprehend his thoughts and actions at times. An important point to remember here is we are talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven”, as described in the very first line of the Gospel:
“Jesus told his disciples this parable: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.’”
We are talking about God and everything we have is a gift from God, in this passage it is His kingdom. We do not earn our place in His kingdom; God gives us His kingdom of heaven like he gives us everything else. These are gifts in as much as our gift of life, love, the people in our lives, etc. Think about the Catholic Sacrament formerly referred to as “Last Rites”, and now called “The Anointing of the Sick.” People at death’s door can repent for their sins and be welcomed into Heaven. Our God generously gives His kingdom to all that believe, repent, and welcome Jesus into their hearts, minds, and souls. This is truly a gift that Jesus gives to us and if someone receives Jesus throughout his/her life should that mean the gift of His kingdom should somehow be more than those that receive Him later in life or at death’s door? We do not earn the kingdom of God. It is given to us as a gift because God loves us completely, and unconditionally. All of us. Please reread this Gospel passage and when you have time, the “Prodigal Son”, and think about it from God’s perspective and the perspective that everything we receive from God is a gift. This may help to understand how our amazing God works in our lives. I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this reflection.