By Mary Ellen Barrett
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.” ~ Mt 20:1-16
Today’s Gospel has the owner of the vineyard taking some flak for his policy of paying the same wage to those workers who only worked an hour as to those who labored all day. “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.'”
The parable is not meant to be a treatise on labor relations or a just wage but rather a parable about the mercy and generosity of God to welcome all people, regardless of when they choose to come to him. You can be late to the party and still get in; you can even be lazy and not committed to the task at hand until the very end and still enter. That’s a good thing, too, as I am kind of counting on that mercy myself.
Reflecting on the passage, I have also found family life to be mirrored here as well. God created families to sanctify us, and welcoming those who try our patience by not always doing their fair share is part of that.
As mothers, we know those arguments well. In my house, they occur when I let the younger ones get away with something, the older ones “never would have been able to do,” or so the story goes.
The cries of “it’s not fair” mimic those first-come laborers. Some days, I need to point out to those children born in my younger days that they had it better in many ways. The young ones were late to the party, and sometimes a little extra mercy is needed in consequence, on their part as well as on mine.
Lord, guide me in being as merciful and loving to both the first and the last wherever I may find them in life.
Call to Action
Today, prayerfully consider where in your life you can be more generous in spirit and what it is that might be holding you back. Anger? Pride?
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