At the end of the day, the landowner asked all to come for their pay- starting with those who started working last. Slowly, they were all paid the daily wage until those who had been working all day- since dawn- were given the same wage as the ones who had been working for just an hour.
They, like what I think most of us would do as well, protested. After all, they had been the ones to actually do the work. It was them that produced the true work. The landowner dismisses them and says that they shall be given what they agreed to- the daily wage.
This is hard because this parable is saying that the deathbed confession is as equally offered all that is the Kingdom of God as to the person who had confessed and confirmed his faith in the dawn of life. Who are these people who can come in at the last moment and get the same as the virtually sinless person? Who do they think they are?
God, in his infinite mercy that we all must rely on, embraces them for their faith; not their lack thereof throughout the years. It seems hard to understand that if we live our entire lives integrated into the life of the Church, we receive the same as someone who sees the light at the last possible moment.
It might not be “fair” but does that matter? No. We are not living our lives following the Gospel message in order to receive this glorious gift at the end. We are living it to praise His glory and praise His name. None of our works can purchase for us the rewards of eternal life; eternal life was purchased for us by the life and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We live our lives of faith by attempting to be the best examples of the Christian message while spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.
If we based our actions on that- being what we were born to be and not what we can gain from it- then we won’t grumble when the workers at dawn are given the same as the workers who were idle most of the day. We will rejoice for that is another soul proclaiming the Incarnate Word.
Assuming we know and understand that, this Gospel is still hard. We use the words of Scripture to guide us in whatever battles we are struggling with today.
When praying over this Gospel, the idea of work, as we know it today, came to mind. I thought of Dilbert and Office Space; I thought of the usual 9-5 grind wishing for the days of a hardwall and not having 5 bosses who know nothing about anything. How often do we just zone out while working? How often do we do just enough to get by? Is this the kind of work the parable mentions in today’s context?
While, I haven’t been a practicing faithful Catholic my entire life- only seven years- I’ve been Catholic long enough to go through many phases and cycles of Catholcity. I’ve been Catholic long enough to know that our faith doesn’t exist only in phases or cycles either. Our faith and how we live our lives exist in a dynamic equilibrium.
Sometimes our faith tells us how to act. Sometimes our actions tell us what we believe. (A discussion about why liturgy, and exactly how we pray as a community, is important since we believe as we pray. I digress…) And sometimes, we know our actions and our faith are at odds with one another.
This is us slacking off while at work.
No matter our intentions or no matter that we truly never wished to hurt anyone, we do or don’t do something we should have done. We let things go too far. We fail to examine ourselves to figure out exactly what we’re doing until it’s too late. In short, we screw up.
Is there something to be said about this in light of our Gospel? We talk about those- who many of us would like to say are ourselves- who have been working since dawn. In that long day of labor, did we give our all to the harvest? Did we do it all for the greater glory of God? Or did we slack off? Did we just do enough to get by? Do we truly deserve the “just” wage that we are given at the end of our days? Are we hypocritical?
We rely on the mercy of God. While we are seekers, restless with desire, trying to find our way toward what will complete us, we can never gain ourselves what we seek. We can try to fill that desire with lesser things or we play with things that we shouldn’t play with or we fall into despair thinking that there is no way to fill our deepest desires. In the end, whether we are at the highest point of our faith cycle, or in our “God” phase or just in that equilibrium wrestling with ourselves, we can only rely on the love and mercy of God.