last will be first, and the first, last’
Sunday of the Year A
week’s parable about the labourers in the vineyard is an invitation to
understand that the ways of God are not bound or limited by human standards.
Adrian Graffy reflects.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going
out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He made an agreement with
the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. 3 Going out
at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place 4 and
said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” 5 So
they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went
out and did the same. 6 Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found
more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here
idle all day?” 7 “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them,
“You go into my vineyard too.” 8 In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said
to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the
last arrivals and ending with the first.” 9 So those who were hired at about
the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. 10 When the
first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each.
11 They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. 12 “The men who came last,”
they said, “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us,
though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” 13 He answered one of
them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on
one denarius? 14 Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as
much as I pay you. 15 Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be
envious because I am generous?” 16 Thus the last will be first, and the first,
readings: Isaiah 55:6-9 Psalm 144 (145) Philippians 1:20-24, 27
gospel reading is one of the parables of Jesus found only in the Gospel of
Matthew. The parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard may give rise to some
perplexity. Why does the landowner not pay the labourers according to the hours
they have worked?
parable is an invitation to understand that the ways of God are not bound or
limited by human standards. The first reading, from the second part of the Book
of Isaiah, is very well chosen to assist our understanding. God says: ‘for my
thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways’. God does not act
according to the principles of human justice, whereby human beings are repaid
according to their actions. God’s loving generosity puts such considerations to
point of the parable is that we cannot demand rewards from God. The gifts which
God bestows are always far greater than anything we can merit. We are saved not
by our own efforts but by the boundless kindness of God which we gratefully
welcome into our lives.
When has God taught you that the ways of
God are different?
Is it appropriate to speak of the
‘justice’ of God?
We pray for openness to the things of God,
which are beyond our full comprehension.
We pray for a spirit of forgiveness and
acceptance of others.