September 20, 2020 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/092020.cfm)
Don’t know if we hear it right. Jesus’ parable today tells us of an owner who paid the same amount of wages to laborers who came first and last. Do you think the owner has been just and fair? Has he paid for what we call today just-wage for an honest day’s work? And Jesus even ends the gospel with a completely non-sense statement: “the last will be first, and the first will be last” simply because for us the first is first, and the last should be last.
For us today, paying same amount to first and last simply doesn’t seem to be just and fair. Maybe our gospel today is one of those written in the Scripture which is good to hear, but doesn’t make sense, so we don’t bother to follow. This is because we nowadays follow a very different work ethics. First, we always think that there should be seniority in workplace – those who are more senior, experienced, talented should deserve and enjoy more privileges than those who are young, inexperienced and still learning laborers. Second, the more you work the more salary or wage you deserve than those who have less work. That is why we think that our parable today is not fair because we usually connect wage, salary, reward and payment with work…. and work with wage, salary, rewards and privileges. We usually equate work for the money, wage or reward. Everything has its prize. Nothing is free anymore. If you don’t work, you don’t earn. No work, no pay. No pay, no work. And if what you do is not considered as work or labor – like the work of a mother at home – you are not and should not be paid either.
This is what Jesus is trying to teach us today in our gospel. Work is not necessarily and always connected with wage or money. Work is more than just receiving or deserving a just payment or wage. There is more value in our human work and labor than just earning money or wage for it. To equate and limit work with wage undermines the dignity of work of God and man. Take for example, the work of mother at home, the work of a priest, a teacher to educate, a doctor to heal, a farmer, a fisherman, and a public servant. Deep inside, we know that the work we do is more than just the wage we receive because we dignify our human labor as our vocation and mission in participation with God’s work.
Although our capitalistic and consumeristic world today promotes otherwise, Jesus reminds us that human labor is dignified – it is our participation and contribution in God’s work for our redemption and salvation. Perhaps we better reexamine our work ethics – are we in for the money or for the betterment of human world? One thing for sure, in doing God’s work or working with Jesus, there is no seniority, no privileges, no prizes, bonus and rewards, no early comers or latecomers, no DTR – daily time record. But everyone receives equally more than what each of us deserved, for what we receives is not Salary or Wage but God’s overflowing Gift and grace of His Redemption and Love, coming out of His generosity.
Jesus reveals us here the Generous nature of our God and Father whose thoughts and ways are beyond ours. He is a God we are to discover in our daily work with Him, and not in our thoughts and ways. Ours is a Generous God who always provides us with much graces and blessings we need, and through our dignified work we participate and contribute in His work of blessing us all always. God indeed works in His own unique work-ethics – different and beyond our own.
Which reminds of a story about a bishop who went for a surprised visit to a newly-built chapel “kapilya”. While appreciating the kapilya, a little girl of ten came and asked the bishop: “How do you like our new kapilya?”. The bishop replied, “It’s very nice.” The girl then said, “You know what? I am part of its construction.” Surprised the bishop asked: “How could you?” The girl proudly responded: “When my father, the head carpenter built this kapilya, I brought him “Lunch”. So I’m part of its construction.
Perhaps we learn something from the work-ethics of the girl. In building God’s Kingdom, Are we part of the construction and harvest, OR are we just hired-paid laborers? Regardless what, when – be it first or last, senior or neophytes, or where we work – be office or home, we better ask ourselves what are we working FOR?
Pandemic times have rendered a number of people to lose their own jobs and careers. Difficult it may be, perhaps this can also be ample time for all of us to review our work-ethics, reevaluate our present jobs, and reconsider some career-shifts that would improve & be more in line with one’s own life-vocation & mission.
Grant us, O Lord the grace to discern Your will for us now as we take part in Your better plan always for our best. Amen.
By Fr. Aphelie Mario Masangcay, CSsR (a former Filipino Redemptorist Missionary for Filipino Migrants in South Korea who, due to immune compromised diabetic condition, stationed back home in the Philippines for now).