Many of us are familiar with this Sunday’s gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, about the laborers of the “eleventh hour”(the hours here are measured starting at about 6:00 am, dawn), the laborers who are paid the same wage for one hour of work as the laborers who worked a full day. Clearly, this is not a lesson in business! If I had been the first employee, I would have been (rightly) upset! The fact that the employer has the right, in the end, to pay as he wills (it being his money) does not make it fair. It simply means that he is free to do as he wills.
Bear in mind that this is a parable, which does not mean direct logic. Somehow, Jesus makes use of this parable about labor and “usual” wages to reveal something of the kingdom of heaven, and thus, of our relationship with God, which, strictly speaking, is not about labor and wages!
Now, we are, in a sense, laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. Through us, the Lord works to harvest, to grow his reign. But we are all late; and we are all, in one way or another, ill-equipped.
And what is our wage for such unique labor? God Himself! Our wage is not really a wage, but a gratuitous gift that cannot be measured. We are all thus over-“paid”! In fact, we labor in the Lord’s vineyard because we have been loved. And so, we have been pre-paid! And, as we labor in the Lord’s vineyard, we are loved. And when we labor poorly-i.e. often-we are still paid, God still loves us. Think about it: each one of us who comes forward to receive Communion receives the Lord, the same “wage”, no matter where we may be in life, no matter how “late” we may be. The effects in our life, of course, depend on our cooperation, but, initially, the same gift. Talk about “job” security! Talk about relationship security.
Yours in the Lord of the harvest,