Today’s readings give us many things to ponder. The first thing that came to my mind was thank God that God’s ways are above my ways. Thank God that God’s generosity is not limited by my pettiness.
However, today I would like to focus on another aspect of the gospel: namely, that fact that the owner of the vineyard is constantly on the look out for more workers. The owner of the vineyard is constantly inviting people to participate in the task of looking after the vineyard. It is like he cannot stand the sight of people not employed. What might this mean? How might this help us understand the rest of the gospel?
The obvious approach to our gospel is that there are some people who are early to the party and some people who are late to the party, and that the people who are early to the party assume that they have contributed more and therefore are more valuable. But perhaps there is another way of seeing it.
Perhaps we could see the different people in the marketplace at different times of the day as different opportunities that each of us are presented with. The early ones might be the ones we consider more important: kind of like our main tasks. Maybe the later ones are smaller things, or things that we cannot see the benefit of. Perhaps the early workers are our jobs. Perhaps the later workers might be making sure we smile at someone passing by, or remembering to call someone on his or her birthday. The later workers might even be just remembering to ask someone how his or her day was, or play a game with our children.
The reason why I say this is again God’s ways are not our ways. God can turn anything to the building up of the kingdom. We are never sure what in our day might bear the most fruit. Think of the Good thief, who at the very end of his life said words to Christ that provoked words that will last forever and have consoled so many.
Another good example of this is St Paul in our second reading. As a disciple, he gets the way the Lord works in that he does not get how the Lord works completely. He is nonchalant about his life or death, knowing that whatever he is called to by God is best. Whether he lives or whether he dies, so long as it is in accord with God’s will, so long as it is done with love, it becomes a beautiful Eucharistic sacrifice. He becomes a worker in the vineyard.
Not only that, I think St Paul knows what the real wage is. The early workers in the vineyard have an eye on their wallets. Perhaps they don’t understand the real value of their work. Their real wage is twofold. First, in working for the Lord, they become disciples. Their real wage is that they become conformed to the image of the Son, who always carries out the will of the Father.
The second wage they receive is the inheritance that is always talked about in our prayers; namely, other people. As St Paul again shows us in our second reading, he is both desperate to do God’s will and desperate that others should know the good news and be saved. This is his real wage, this is his real inheritance: other people. God so loved the world that he sent his only Son not to condemn the world but to redeem it. Christ’s inheritance is the world. Our inheritance as the body of Christ is likewise the world.
Let’s pray then in our Mass today that we receive every moment as an invitation to work in God’s vineyard. Let us never forget God’s power to turn something small into something great. Let’s not let our pettiness rob someone of God’s generosity. Let’s play our part, thanking God that through our cooperation, we are being made more and more into the image of Christ for the life of the world.