The first reading tried to warn us. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” It really tried to warn us that the gospel was going to be counter-intuitive and that God would be thinking in a way that we do not at first.
This parable is beautifully designed if you ask me. When we hear that ones who worked hard all day and did almost all of the work end up with the same as the ones who did next to nothing, I think we understand their grumbling. Remember group projects in school? Were you one of those people that did all the work because no one else cared, carried the whole project on your back and in the end the group members who just sat there doing nothing got the same grade as you? Or imagine if you found out that the lazy, incompetent coworker you have gets paid more than you. A lot more than you. See that’s why this parable works, because for most people what would be fair and just would be to divvy out the reward based on merit.
But “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” The parable hits us hard when the landowner forces our perspective to change from viewing things as the early workers to viewing things as himself, the landowner. What is not fair and just about being paid what you agreed to? What do agreements I make with someone else have to do with you? Suddenly from that perspective we see that there is nothing unjust about how the workers were paid, just as there is nothing unjust about receiving a grade that reflects your work or receiving the salary that you took a job for.
But there is something more to the landowners perspective. Did you notice how he talked to the workers? He said, “My friend, I am not cheating you.” My friend. The landowner views his hired workers as friends! Something for us to know that the people listening to Jesus would have known, was that the landowner was paying them at the end of the day because it was required by the law that daily workers get paid on the same day of their work. This was because they needed that money to survive from one day to the next; the workers he hired were going from paycheck to paycheck in the most literal and desperate sense. So look at the parable again, and see that the landowner had compassion for the later workers and chose to provide for them. He saw workers that might not eat tomorrow because no one hired them, and decided to be generous to someone he saw not as a worker, but as a human being, as a friend. It is the morning workers who, in a selfish perspective, could not see the other workers or the landowner as friends… they deceived themselves into thinking that their envy was something righteous instead of something sinful.
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” As we look at our lives and at our world, this gospel should cause us to pause and to reconsider our perspective… to ask ourselves if we have made a world that is compassionate or if a selfish perspective has limited our understanding of what is fair and just. That is something I invite you to pray about this week and you sit with the gospel. But as a starting point, to raise our minds to the ways of the Lord, we must in all things seek to know His perspective, to know his heart in everything that we do. It begins by knowing his perspective as he looks at us. The landowner continually goes out during the day to seek more laborers for his vineyard, just as Christ continually seeks us throughout our lives, desiring to make us his own and help him work in the vineyard, help him build up his kingdom. Different people hear and respond to that call to holiness at different times in their life, but the longer we avoid living for Christ the more desperate he becomes to gather us in even at the last hour of our life. It is never too late for us to enter into a serious conversation, a serious relationship with Jesus Christ because the generosity of his love is always there for us to know. If you can find the compassionate perspective of Christ towards you, I think it will be easier to have that same perspective as you look beyond yourself.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.