August 21, 2019 – Wednesday; Memorial of St. Pius X, pope
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew (20:1-16)
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“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?
Or 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.”
The Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and priests represented the group of people in the Jewish society who believed so much of their righteousness. Among them and the common people, there was a clear distinction in terms of social status. Because of their standing, they could display an indifferent attitude towards those who were considered lower in status. These low class people include women, children and particularly, the poor, the sick, the disabled and public sinners.
Moreover, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and priests believed that their superiority made them deserving of all God’s goodness and graces. Thus, these people loved to be praised and recognized. This is the reason why they cannot accept the teaching of Jesus that others could also experience God’s goodness. They even despised Jesus for offering God’s forgiveness and gift of healing to the poor, the sick, and sinners. They despised Him because they believed that God’s grace is reserved for them alone.
This tendency to accumulate praises and demand for greater reward because of the good qualities we have, only poisons our hearts and relationships. It makes our heart unwelcoming to others who need more than us.
This is what we find in the Gospel. It teaches us how God treat all of us, showing concern and compassion.
The parable speaks of the generosity of the landowner towards the workers. The first ones who were hired on that day felt jealous with those who were hired at the last hour. The first ones worked the whole day and the last ones worked only for an hour. But then, they all received the same wage according to the agreed wage for that whole day work.
The first ones were disappointed because they thought that those who only worked for one hour did not deserve for that wage. Since they worked hard, they should be above them and those who worked less should not be treated like them. But then, for the landowner, if he will not give the usual wage for those who were hired last, then the food that they will bring for their families will not be enough. They will starve on that day. It means that the parable actually is not about labor issues but of God’s generosity to each of us.
Indeed, this is what we believe that when we are more gifted than the others, more intelligent, more gwapo or gwapa then we should have more; and those who are lesser than us should have less. When we feel that we are more righteous and religious, going to church and saying the rosary daily and regular novena to Mary, we might think that we are far better than those who don’t go to church and do not pray.
Unconsciously, we also become the Pharisees who do not have the sympathy for those who are struggling in life. The poor, the sick and the weak sinners at the time of Jesus can be today’s young people who have been addicted to drugs, or to alcohol, sex or gambling not because they are bad but because of family problems, broken relationships, traumatic experiences, and low self-esteem. They can also be our friends or family members whom we continually bully because they are weaklings, untalented and less intelligent than us.
But remember, God relates to us not merely because of the effort that we did but because of “who we are” to him. God is good to us not because we are deserving but because God is so good and generous. We are all loved by him no matter what, no matter how big our failures were, no matter how serious our sins were.
Thus, for those who have worked hard, for those who have been so faithful to God this gospel is not meant to discourage you of working hard, for doing your daily devotion, but this is meant for us to know that God is generous also towards those who are less fortunate. And we have the role to lift up those who are less fortunate in this life. For those of us who felt that we are lesser beings, felt unworthy because of our mistakes, failures and sins – this Gospel is truly good news for us because God tells us today that we too are blessed because we are loved.
I would like to give you an assignment today. Identify in your circle of friends or family and relatives those who feel low, who believed that they are not deserving of anything good in this life… once you have recognized them, approach them and tell them that they too are loved. That they can find support in you, in your other friends and family members. Let us lift one another together especially those who need it more. In this way, we will become God’s reflection of generosity and love to others. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR