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First in the Vineyard
Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
[And Jesus said,] “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: Lord, here I am. Show me your face; show me your love for me. I know that without you I am nothing, and yet you want to give me everything. I want to love you—teach me how. Whether you want to console me or challenge me, I’m here to listen.
- The Desire for Fairness: Nothing holds us back from holiness like the desire for “fairness.” It is one of those uncomfortable paradoxes of human nature. We ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I get that promotion? Why do I have this illness? How dare he speak to me like that?” And yet, we can have very little patience for others who complain about the same things. In this parable, Christ wants to open our eyes to see the world through an entirely different lens—his lens. He doesn’t hand out a certain number of graces over here, and balance that with a certain number of difficulties over there. And Christ doesn’t compare us with others. No, like the perfect parent, he deals with us only based on what is good for us—why should we treat ourselves or others any differently?
- First in the Vineyard: Don’t we get tired of “doing what is good” from time to time? Always being the first to offer help—the one everyone counts on? When we feel like this–discouraged and tired–are we subtly comparing our behavior to that of others? These are precisely the kind of temptations that Christ is warning about in this passage. Whenever we remove Christ from the center of our hearts and allow our behavior to be motivated by anything else, sooner or later we notice our tendency to compare ourselves with others, which can lead to jealousy or envy. To counteract this downward spiral, we must fight to have a grateful heart. The more we look for God’s grace in our lives (and it is surely there), the less we will look at how much more grace appears to be in others’ lives. Gratitude just doesn’t leave room in our heart for anything but God—and in grateful hearts, God is able to work wonders.
- God Is Generous: Jesus tells us that the first and last workers in the vineyard were paid the “daily wage.” So, too, the first and last into the Kingdom of heaven will receive the “daily wage,” which is eternal life. When we consider the parable in this light, our hearts, far from being burdened by jealousy, are set on fire to zealously invite other souls to the vineyard so that they, too, can receive this totally gratuitous and unwarranted gift of God.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for taking the time to be with me. I am painfully aware of just how frail I am, and how far I seem from you, but I know that you see things in a completely different way. You see only the good, only the future, only my true identity as your beloved child. Please grant me the grace to live and grow into your image.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend a few minutes reflecting on and thanking you for the gifts you gave me today.
For Further Reflection: Here is an excellent explanation of envy and jealousy—yes, they’re different—by Fr. Mike Schmitz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW_H_j7xtWs.
Written by Br. Riley Connors.