Counting Costs?

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Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 20:1-16

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. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s 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.”


Opening Prayer: Dear Jesus, I humble myself before you, and remind myself that I don’t know how to pray without the help of your Holy Spirit, and without your grace and your presence in my life. Today I long to speak to you and to hear your word in me. I ask you to open my ears to hear you calling me, as I stand in the marketplace of my life, waiting for direction from you. Help me to serve, prompted by your voice. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. What Is Just?: This parable addresses the attitude of the disciples, who had been tempted to focus on what reward they might receive for being close followers of Jesus. They had started to think that Jesus’s kingdom would bring them some kind of riches, or that it would elevate them above others. At first, we might assume Jesus wanted to teach them in the parable that he is just, giving each worker what is due to him. “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?” However, we know that in our case, the “daily wage” is eternal life. There is no amount of work, no calculation, no rationale that justifies our reception of such a profound gift from our superabundantly generous Lord. 
  2. Don’t Be Idle: Jesus is like the landowner who needs help, who has work to be done, who has workers in mind for the job. He will not put up with idleness. In a sense, doing Christ’s work bears a sense of urgency. Whether we were called to follow him early in life, or later, his voice invites our response now, today. He wants our collaboration, he wants us to be his hands and his feet to reach out to others and bring his love to our hurting world. 
  3. Am I Not Free To Do As I Wish?: Our Lord’s reward for the daily wage is generous. Jesus invites his closest followers, his best workers, to adopt his generous heart toward others. We can be his best instruments of generosity when we ourselves are grateful for all he’s done for us.


Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I am more than willing to work for you! I long to be the humble servant in your vineyard, the one who would love to just give his life without expecting anything in return. There are so many ways my human nature gets in the way, and so often I find myself expecting or hoping for recompense. Help me to serve without counting the cost. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a moment to do some hidden act of service for which no one will be able to thank or repay me. 


For Further Reflection: Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to seek reward, except that of knowing that I do your will. Amen (St. Ignatius Loyola).


Father Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and since then has been working as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. During his years of formation and as a priest, he has worked extensively with youth and offers constant pastoral care to families.

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