In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. As we hear this parable, we may find ourselves sympathizing with the workers who started work at dawn, who thought they might get more pay since the ones who worked only a short time got the “usual daily wage.” They didn’t get more, and they thought it was unfair, and our first thoughts might be that they were treated unfairly.
Now if the Israel of Jesus’ times had a National Labor Relations Board, they might have had a case, and if the parable was about paying everyone the same hourly rate, we might have a certain feeling about how the parable ended.
But I don’t see the parable speaking about labor practices and wage scales. I see Jesus speaking about the eternal life. People undergo a conversion at different times and under different circumstances in their lives, and the parable tells us that the important things is not “when,” but “if.” If what is offered to us is eternal life with God, how can there be more to offer? We may imagine different size “mansions” in heaven, but will that really be the case? Will there really be positions of status in heaven when we hear how much Jesus tells His disciples not to be concerned about that on earth?
All I hope is that I get there, period. It won’t matter when I get there, as long as I do. And if I’m surprised by who is already there, then once again, God shows me Who knows best.
Keeping score and making comparisons only distracts us from doing what we’re commanded to do: Love. In fact, doing those things often hinders us from loving freely. May we let Jesus enter in, and open our hearts to generosity and love.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.