25th Week in Ordinary Time [A]
September 20, 2020
Matthew 20: 1-16
Among the many parables of Jesus, this parable of the owner of the vineyard is one that I find difficult to understand. Every time I read this parable, I always felt that something was wrong. Perhaps, I easily associate myself with the first-coming workers, who work from morning to sunset. They are laborers who spend their time and energy under the heat of the sun and give their efforts to meet the demands of the vineyard owner. However, they receive the same wages as those who only offer one hour of work. Of course the owner of the vineyard did not break the contract, but there still seemed to be injustice.
Maybe, this experience is like when I was studying in Manila. I was studying hard to get the best that I could achieve. Indeed, I got good grades, but what I could not accept was when my classmates who did not spent much effort, got also the same grades as I did. For me, It was not fair, but I could drop my complaint because the final grade is the prerogative of the professor.
However, things started to look different when I became a teacher myself. At one point, I needed to give my students final grades. And this is the utmost dilemma for me because I realize that on the one hand, I need to provide justice, but on the other hand, I want all my students to pass and graduate. Finally, I often chose compassion and allowed my struggling students to pass. I am fully aware that some of my students will feel that I am unfair, and that is the burden I must bear as a lecturer who chooses to be compassionate.
If we try to look closely at what vineyard owner is doing, we will find it funny and even weird. He kept looking for and hiring new persons almost every three hours. To make matters worse, he gave the same daily wages for all. In the economy and business, overspending and excess labor are a recipe for bankruptcy! However, the owner of the vineyard did not seem to care and was constantly looking for laborers. Perhaps, he knew very well that if these people were without jobs, they would starve to death, but if they worked and received less than the minimum wage, they wouldn’t be able to survive either. He couldn’t satisfy everyone, but at least he would be able to save everyone.
Learning from this parable, rather than complaining to God, we need to rejoice because our Lord is full of mercy, who even takes the initiative and seeks to seek out those of us who need salvation, and who willingly give eternal life even to those who have not lived well, but at the last moment repent.
We should rejoice because in God’s eyes, we are all the last workers to beg mercy. Who knows, the workers who come first are actually the angels, and we really are the last unworthy laborers. With our sin, we all deserve to go to hell, but God stretches out His hand and opens the Gates of Heaven. We should rejoice that heaven is not a lonely place where few righteous people deserve it, but it is full of grateful people who enjoy God’s mercy even if they are not worthy.
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP
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