My Protestant friend likes to tease me over my fondness for wine. “It is such a Catholic thing!” I will not tell you how much wine I had last night, but I will jokingly admit it is one area where I have long, and enthusiastically, followed Christ in. For now, let us ponder the following parable.
Matthew 20: 1-16
“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? 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.”
Wow! What a powerful message. It is a lot to take in. For my part, I wish to provide my thoughts, and, in keeping with the theme, I will analyze each paragraph from the last to the first.
God has a remarkable gift waiting for us at the end of our lives, eternal peace in the presence of His Grace. It does not matter to God whether you have been practicing your faith since you were born, or you waited until the eleventh hour of your life to accept Jesus into your heart. If you were an alter server in your youth, broke away from the church during your rebellious teens, and waited until your death bed to tell Christ I am sorry, Lord. I love you, and accept you into my heart. Or any combination therein during your life, you are welcome, and you are loved. Whether you are first, or last is irrelevant because we are all equally undeserving, and all equally welcome to God’s love and mercy.
That is a hard message for our proud, greedy, and ambitious natures to accept. Those first laborers could not. Why should I work all day (Life), for God, and this metaphorical other, be he or she a lifelong atheist, criminal, IRS worker… receive the exact same gift? Because what is Just in God’s eyes, does not always seem fair to ours. God wants us in His kingdom. We all sin and, if we want to tally it up, there will always be someone who should not be welcome in Heaven according to someone else. Imagine if the Saints looked down on you, or me for being in Heaven. Did they not do far more for the glory of God than we? Maybe, maybe not, we have yet to fully forge our own legend on Earth. What matters is that we all pale before the perfection of God, and when we finally come home to Him we will all be equal.
Now that you have finally made your peace with God’s Will, (If you haven’t then just keep re-reading my article until you do. It is very well written, and well worth your time.) we come to the final take-away.
John 15: 5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The vineyard is God and His church. We are in Him, and He is in us. God went out for laborers throughout the different quarters of the day (Life of man), and we are called to do the same. Having accepted that we are all deserving of the same reward, we have achieved a peace of spirit to go out, evangelize, and bring in more laborers for God. If you see someone who is standing idle in faith, bring them in! Make sure they know they are loved by you and by God and welcome them home. There are too many people who will say, “No one has hired me.” Be a landowner for God, and hire them! Some people have been too scared to approach God, so approach them. Some people have spent their entire lives proudly proclaiming their atheism. Start a conversation with them. Show them your love. Earn their trust. Then bring them home.