My thoughts are not your thoughts
and your ways are not my ways,
says the Lord.
Isaiah 55: 8
Jesus wouldn’t make it in a dog-eat-dog business world. Today’s Gospel, Matthew 20: 1-16) proves it.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a vineyard. He needs to get the crop harvested today and so he goes out and hires workers for the normal daily wage.
These aren’t enough and so he goes out to the market place four more times and finds men idle. The lazy bums, some might say.
He asks the last group why they were standing around idle all day. “No one hired us,” they say.
Then he pays all of them the daily wage, the money needed to buy what they need for their families. Their lives depend on finding work.
Those who worked all day complained.
But, as Gustavo Gutiérrez explains in Sharing the Word through the Liturgical Year,
… the workers of the eleventh hour have the same right to work as the first laborers and the right for them and their families to live from that work.
I never really understood this parable of Jesus until I spent a few days in Houston twenty four years ago.
Each day I passed a corner several times and saw men standing around idle. It didn’t matter when I passed; there were almost always men there.
Once, as I passed, a pickup stopped by the corner and the men ran out to talk to the driver. Soon several jumped into the truck as the driver sped off.
They were day laborers, seeking a job for the day. They were not lazy bums standing on a street corner. They were men hoping to find a way to earn some money.
That’s the situation of people all over the world. Some seek a job for even one day – to earn some money for the family. I have been approached a number of times and asked if I had a job for a person. Even some university graduates ask me from time to time if I know of a job.
In God’s Reign, everyone would have a job with a decent wage. All would have what they need to sustain their families.
But also, in God’s Reign all would be welcomed – even the tax collector Matthew whose feast is celebrated today.
The owner of the vineyard asks, “Are you envious because I am generous?”
As José Antonio Pagola writes in Following the Footsteps of Jesus,
All our notions are overturned when we are faced with the free and unfathomable love of God. That is why it shocks us when it seems that Jesus bypassed the pious who are loaded with merits and goes precisely to those who are not entitled to any reward from God — sinner who do not observe the Law or prostitutes forbidden to enter the temple.
God is just and generous. God’s Reign is overflowing with justice and generosity.
With God, we are called to live aware of the generosity and abundance of God – not in a world defined by scarcity where each one of us looks out only for our own salvation and physical existence.
God calls us to something more.