Mt 20: 1-6
In this parable about the workers sent to the vineyard, we see a householder who goes out at different times of day to hire workers for his vineyard. He agrees with those he finds at the first hour to pay them one denarius, as for those he hires the following hours, he says he will pay them what is just. When the day comes to an end, the steward begins to pay the workers, beginning with those who have worked the least amount of time. He gave them each one denarius. When the time came for the workers who had spent their entire day in the vineyard to be paid, they thought they would receive more, but they, too, received one denarius. That is what they had agreed upon.
The parable we read in today´s Gospel leaves us puzzled to some extent, as we wonder if the householder acted unjustly by paying the same amount to those who had endured the weight of the entire day´s work under the hot sun. We know that the householder was just, because he pays them what they had agreed upon, but that doesn´t take away a certain dissatisfaction we tend to feel. Doesn´t it seem like there has been a certain amount of arbitrariness on his part? God always acts wisely, however, we do not always understand his designs. The problem is not in God, but in us. As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, “How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!¨ Even if we don’t understand them, we do know that God is acting wisely, that he is good, that he loves us, and that all things happen for our own good. Our understanding is limited, which is why we have a hard time understanding God’s ways.
When we say that God is infinite goodness and mercy, we forget that all of God’s attributes are on in the same. God is merciful and just at the same time. To separate his mercy from his justice would be blasphemous. If God gives more to some than to others, there is always a reason. The workers who had endured the weight and the heat of the day were the more fortunate of the bunch, because they participated in the cross of Christ in a more special way. This was a gift. We may not comprehend this, however, because we think the way the world thinks and not with the mind of God. We see the cross as a punishment, and not as a sign of God’s love. A Christian’s destiny is no other than that of following Christ, sharing his life and his death. We forget that Christ told us, “He who wants to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me.” “The word of the cross, to those who perish, is foolishness; but to those who are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.”
Christianity is all about love, to the point that he who does not love has not understood Christianity nor does he know God. Therefore, these teachings are only understood by those who love.
In this parable there is a second factor which is entirely contrary to modern pastoral practice as promoted by the high circles of the hierarchy. Modern pastoral practice fails to take notice that it puts many on the path to hell by separating God’s mercy from his justice.
In this parable we also find something that might easily evade us. The homemaker went out at different times of the day to find workers to work in his vineyard. If there is no one sent, then there is no preaching. And if there is no preaching, there is no conversion. Today it is said that there should be no evangelizing of Jews or Muslims. This is directly opposed to the teachings of Christ. “How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”(Rom. 10)
Don’t be puzzled, therefore, if God places on your shoulders tasks that go beyond your possibilities. Remember that God chose the weak to confound the strong. That is when the strength of Christ fills us.