“Go into my vineyard and I will give you what is just.”
It strikes me that this Gospel must be a source of reassurance to those that some describe as “late-in-life or delayed vocations”. When the 5 o’clock whistle blew the persons in the parable figured they’d been overlooked AGAIN. “I don’t I look strong enough? What will I say to my wife and children?” The parable describes these hopefuls as “standing around.” But if you have ever seen day-laborers gathered, hopefully waiting for a grove owner’s bus, you’ve seen people weary and discouraged before the day begins. They sit on a bench or crouched on their haunches. Some perk up when the bus pulls in. Hope rises, then falls, as the boss chooses a handful of workers for that day. Experience warns the overlooked once again that there’s no room for them on the bus.
But they don’t completely give up. They live in hope. They wait well into the day. Until 5 o’clock, the parable says. Staring into space, once again picturing their children with hunger in their eyes. But wait! Maybe (just maybe) they could pick up a few hours work before dark. Their ears pricked up when they hear the voice of the landowner, the Master, speaking to them: “Why are you still here? You, too, go into my vineyard.” They labor until the whistle blows marking the end of the day in the fields.
Those who came late have worked only a small ratio of the day compared to those who were on the first bus. What a surprise when they discreetly peeked into their pay envelopes. They’d been thinking, “This owner’s usually generous. Wonder how much I got? Will it put supper on the table? Whoa! Look again. It’s not possible that’s a full day’s wages.” But it is!
The whole Gospel story harkens back to a line in the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah: (God speaks) “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. The Master continues emphasizing how far apart God’s thoughts are from ours. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” With that consideration in mind, (that God’s thoughts are a far cry from our earth-bound thoughts) make the jump to the last line in the Gospel parable: “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own riches? Are you envious because I am generous?” Has God ever had to asked you that question: Are you envious because I am generous?
We shouldn’t be found sitting idly on the bench we call life. Or worse, grumbling over “poor me”. Nor can we stand around idle waiting to be hired. The Rule of Benedict offers us a good personal check list:
Benedict exhorts us: Honor all persons with respect. Accommodate a diversity of personality styles. Do not hold your Sisters hostage with any form of tyranny or tardiness nor weigh down the group with grumbling. No favoritism will be awarded due to rank or status, between rich and poor. Any favoritism should be afforded to the weak and the sick. Follow what you consider better for others. Respect all equally!
In regard to respect for individual pathways to holiness, Benedict says in RB 73: there is always more you can do. Those who can do more, should do so. “As observant and obedient monk, we blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then, with Christ’s help, keep this little rule. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of teaching and the virtues, and under God’s protection you will reach them.”
Can you hear the landowner asking you: “Why are you standing here idle all day? Go into my vineyard and I will give you what is just.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB
Welcome to Fall 2023… cooler weather and
beautiful change of season
Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9 Philippians 1:20-24, 27a
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a