|Posted on September 24, 2017 at 5:30 AM|
May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.
I have often thought that if a landowner were to actually behave like the one we read of in today's Gospel, he would soon find that in the morning there would be be very few men in the market-place seeking work; while come the evening when he returned for his last visit he would find the place bursting at the seams! However, it is not the intention of our Lord in this parable to provide us with business advice or to promote a new model of employment practice. Rather he seeks to explain that when it comes to the eternal reward that awaits each and every one of us, God's idea of what is right and proper is very different to how a human being might judge the situation.
And it is well for us that God views things very differently from men. In the immediate context in which Jesus is speaking, his purpose is to make it clear to Jews, whose ancestors have been faithful to God for generations, that the Gentiles who are only just coming to understand and believe in the one true God will not be treated any differently to them. But Sacred Scripture, as we know, speaks to all generations; and to us it says that those who come late to faith, or late to being obedient to God's law despite knowing the teachings of the faith, will receive the same reward as those who have been faithful servants all their lives.
This, of course, is how it must be. Eternal life is eternal life. One person can not have more of it while another has less. For if one person had less, then that person would not receive eternal life at all. And how can you grant one person more eternal life than another? The answer of course is that you can not. God created us all to have eternal life with him in heaven; and while we may reject that gift and spend eternity elsewhere as a result, it is simply a logical impossibility that God may grant one person more and another less of the eternal life with him that he offers.
God, of course, understands that this might be a difficult thing for us to understand. That is why he himself tells us this parable in the person of the second person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ. He wants us to understand that he does no one an injustice when he gives the same reward to the person who is faithful to him over the course of a long life from beginning to end, and to the person who lives an equally long life but only repents of his evil ways at the end of it. This is because salvation is God's free gift to us; it is not something that any of us are entitled to. And as the landowner says to those who grumble: am I not allowed to do as I choose with what belongs to me? And if that is true of a man, then how much more true is it when it comes to God.
God, as already been pointed out, understands that this may be difficult for some to understand. That is why the landowner in the parable is not angry with those who grumble. This is evidenced by the mild manner in which he speaks to them. He even addresses them as 'friend.' There are many parables in which the person who by interpretation stands for God displays anger with those who argue with him or oppose him, sometimes a great and terrible righteous anger. But not in this case. He gently explains that they have suffered no wrong; and indeed have themselves received their just reward, the good reward that has been promised to them.
There are two points with which I should like to end. The first is prompted by a question I have had more than once in Confirmation classes, which goes along the lines of: why should I not live as I please and wait until the end of my life to repent, be forgiven, and go to heaven anyway? The answer to that is, I hope, obvious to all here. We none of us know for certain if we will be alive tomorrow, or even a moment from now, much less that we will be alive to repent many years from now. And, as I hope all here also know, to be able to commit deliberate and repeated sin requires you to harden your heart and constantly deny to yourself and the world that those actions are sinful in the first place; and it is, of course, impossible to repent of what one refuses to acknowledge as sinful.
And the second, and last, is that we should note that the landowner repeatedly returned to the market, searching for workers to labour in his vineyard. The road to salvation always begins with God's initiative; and he wants all to be saved, no matte how late they come. But we must also note that each time he arrived he found people there – people who had not been present at his previous visits, people who were now ready, willing, and able to work in his vineyard. God's initiative requires a response from us. And just as those who do not come to the market seeking work will not receive any payment at the end of the day, those who do not respond to our Lord's call at any stage in their lives cannot receive the reward of eternal life. Pray for me that I may always respond as our Lord desires I should respond to his call; even as I will pray for you
in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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