XXV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 55:6-9; philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; matthew 20:1-16a
robert de moor shares an incident from his childhood:
«when the apples ripened, mom would sit all seven of us down… with pans and knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. she never bothered keeping track of how many we did… when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: a large chocolate-dipped cone money.
a stickler might argue it wasn’t quite fair... but i can’t remember anyone complaining about it. a family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom.»
when we understand the kingdom of GOD as a family—with a different yardstick of fairness and equality—we will cease «complaining» about owner of the vineyard!
the landowner does seem unfair. human justice argues that those who work a full-day should be paid more than those who work less.
however, the landowner pays those who laboured the whole day the agreed-upon wage. he generously pays the «late-comers» what he considers just: a full-day’s wage (nb: the average «daily wage» was enough only for «daily bread» for a worker’s family. were the owner not to pay the late-comers the full daily wage, their families would go hungry).
further, the parable is about GOD’s invitation to collaborate in the work of the kingdom.
the kingdom cannot be earned through our effort. true, we must do all we can to receive it: sow the word, launch the boat and cast the net, love with all our strength… but we do not merit the kingdom.
GOD’s offer is for all people; it is repeated often and throughout the «day». each receives what each needs: «daily bread» and fullness of life. GOD does not partition grace into different amounts for different people; he gifts his grace abundantly and equally to all… regardless of the hour they accept his offer.
unfair? the first reading reminds us: «my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.»
will i begrudge GOD’s fairness to the late-comer… forgetting that i am a late-comer, too, and do not merit his grace? will i do my part of the kingdom work, and allow GOD’s grace to do the rest?