This weekend, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord tells us in today’s first reading, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.” Each of us can see the validity of this truth by the typical reaction we have to the parable Jesus gives us in today’s Gospel. Think about it, aren’t we prone to agree with the beef of those who worked a grueling 12-hour day but who didn’t receive a penny more than those who worked only one hour? In order to have our thoughts become more like God’s thoughts and our ways resemble His ways, however, we first must better understand what Our Lord is teaching us in this parable.
First of all: This parable is addressed to the Jewish people, whom God called at an early hour, centuries ago. They were entrusted with everything God had reveled to them to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Now, at the fullness of time, with the coming of the Messiah, the Gentiles are also being called—with an equal right to form part of the new people of God, the Church. In both cases it is a matter of a gratuitous, unmerited, invitation from God; therefore, those who were the “first” to receive the call have no grounds for complaining when God calls the “last” and gives them the same reward— membership of his people.
So God, like the landowner, goes out continually to call people to salvation. Some enter into that salvation early, like children at baptism, or the Blessed Mother, or all those striving to be Saints. These are those who enter at 6 am. Others come later, those who convert on their deathbed, those like the good thief who change at the end. 5 pm in the parable is equivalent to our 11th hour. But to each person who dies in Christ, God gives heaven, no matter when they first entered.
One last idea: At first sight the laborers of the first hour seem to have a genuine grievance—because they do not realize that to have a job in the Lord’s vineyard is a divine gift. Let me explain: So, although everyone who agrees to go into the vineyard, at different times of the day, all of them went through the same door—all got into heaven. So, those who’ve been gifted to be members of the new family of God, the Church, should never envy those who get into heaven at the last hour. The longer we’ve recognized what a divine gift it is to know Jesus and all that he said and did, the more we’ve had the time and opportunity to get into a deeper relationship with him, the more we’ve recognized that God disposes everything ultimately to help us to fall in love with Him during the short time of our earthly existence, the more we will be overjoyed to share our joy with those who are thirsting for God’s love.
Once in heaven, we’ll notice the hierarchy: those closest to God, those furthest away from God, kind of like the hierarchy of the 9 Choirs of Angels: the Seraphim love God the most and are closest to Him… Think of Our Lady, she sits at Our Lord’s right hand, then surrounded by all the Saints… Being with the Lord in his vineyard longer = greater blessing now and for all eternity: greatest possibilities to get closer to God using all the tools He has given us…
In conclusion, as we prepare to receive him today, we thank him for never stopping to come to meet us in the marketplace to remind us of the work to which he’s calling us; we beg him to strengthen us on the inside to respond wholeheartedly to that summons, so that we may share his joy in bringing in a great harvest of souls to rejoice with him and with us forever. Amen.