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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 20, 2020 – The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

After the rich young man who has kept all the commandments goes away sad because he wasnt willing to give up his possessions to follow Jesus, Jesus comments to the disciples, It will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, Who then can be saved?Jesus responds, For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.Then Peter says to Jesus, We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?This is the context for todays Gospel passage of the Workers in the Vineyard, and this parable of Jesus further illustrates Jesusteaching to the disciples and in effect answers Peters question. The parable is set up to address the attitude of the disciples in terms of their service or following of the Lord and its relationship to salvation. The parable serves as an examination for us and the attitude with which we approach salvation. All is well until those who were hired first see that those who were hired last got the usual daily wage. After seeing this, they presume they will get more because they worked the whole day, but when they also get the usual daily wage, they grumble against the landowner. They feel they have been cheated – that the landowner has been unjust to them. They are bitter and resentful. They are not satisfied with what they received even though it was what  they agreed to with the landowner. What they got is what they wanted. So why are they upset? Why is what they got not enough? The parable teaches that we do not enter heaven based on our effort. Our eternal rewardis not based on how much work weve put in our how much time weve been laboring for the Lord. It is impossible for us to be savedby human effort. Salvation is pure gift. We are saved by Gods initiative and our free response to his invitation. Salvation is a grace – not something we earn. We are saved by the mercy of God. We dont deservesalvation. Do we even understand what salvation is? In the parable, the payis the same for all the workers because salvation is a relationship with a person – an intimate relationship of friendship with Jesus. Heaven is like a landowner – a person – who is merciful. How does one receive more or less of Jesus? One either has a relationship with him or not. If our workin the vineyard is not rooted in a relationship of love with Jesus, we can keep all the rules and do all kinds of good works, but the faith will be experienced as a burden. If our prayer and charitable works or faithfulness to what weve been asked to do as Catholics in terms of practice is seen as something we are doing with an expectation of return – like working for a paycheck, instead of fostering friendship with God, we are not only wasting our time, but are looking at the spiritual life though a worldly measure and fostering a judgmental attitude toward our brothers and sisters and a presumption toward our own salvation. Their complaint, that you have made them equal to usis an ironic truth. Our humanity is all the same – we are all in need of Gods mercy. Our efforts cant change that. There is a subtle difference between the workers called first and those who entered the vineyard later. For the first called, they are sent into the vineyard after the landowner agrees with them for the usual daily wage. They are negotiating with the landowner – telling the landowner what they think they are worth or what they are willing to accept in order to go into the vineyard. Those who go later into the vineyard go in without knowing a set amount. They simply respond to the promise from the landowner, I will give you what is just.We dont have to negotiate or come to a deal if we trust someone. The ironic thing is that if we set the terms of the relationship with God – if we enter into it as a negotiation, God will give us want we want, he will honor and respect our measure, but our measure is not ultimately satisfying. It is not enough. Our measure cannot get us to heaven. Human justice – getting what we think we deserve – does not satisfy the human heart. What we long for is mercy. Only mercy will satisfy. Are you envious because I am generous?The first workers actually want the mercy that those called last received. But the measure with which they measured will be measured out to them. Take what is yours and go.Those who cling to their own measure – the measure of justice according to human standards – will be unhappy on the day of judgment and will be told by the Lord to take what is yours and go.What is ours is not enough for us to be saved. Do we negotiatewith God in our prayer and about what we do as Catholics? Or are we willing to follow with an open yesto ways that are not our ways? Do we see our relationship with the Lord as one of friendship or do we see our judgment as some sort of performance review or a salary negotiation? Life is Christas St. Paul says. What there will be for us at the judgment is determined by whether Christ is our life now or if we have reduced the faith to something we can manage, control, and determine.

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