“Heaven is the Ultimate “Equal Opportunity” Crowd!” – Mt 20:1-16†


Going to the Chapel, and I’m Going to Get, Umm, – “retreated.”  Yep, I am going on our Franciscan (SFO) annual retreat this weekend.  So, I may be a little late in posting a reflection on Sunday, but it will get done.  If there are any intentions, please be comforted that I intend to pray for any of your intentions (this sentence is close to a “department of repetition department” sentence).  Pax  [PS – Please pray for good weather]

 

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   849 – Death of Walafrid Strabo, German monk and theologian
†  1503 – Death of Pope Alexander VI (b. 1431)
†  1559 – Death of Pope Paul IV (b. 1476)
†  1579 – Birth of Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau, Roman Catholic nun (died 1640)
†  1596 – Birth of Jean Bolland, Flemish Jesuit writer (d. 1665)
†  1857 – Birth of Libert H. Boeynaems, Belgian Catholic prelate (d. 1926)
†  1952 – Death of Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, Chilean Jesuit saint (b. 1901)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

  

Today’s reflection is about the landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day, and paid all the same.

 

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’  16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  (NAB Mt 20:1-16)

 

With the unemployment rate the way it is in this country, today’s Gospel reading probably hits home with most of us, and in a very unique and special way.  So many homes have been affected by the devastation of jobs being eliminated and/or moved to third-world countries where labor is so much less than in the United States.

This parable is about a landowner who hired laborers for his vineyard throughout the day and then paying all the laborers the same wage.  It is difficult to know whether he actually composed it, or received it as part of his education and faith formation.  If the latter, what was the original reference?  In its present context, it is closely association with Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”   

Why does the landowner go find and hire laborers throughout the day.  As I believe in simple answers, I think it is because he doesn’t want to leave out anyone willing to work.  This landowner definitely had compassion for the others around him.  In a sense, he was walking in Jesus’ footsteps.  Too bad the laborers that were hired first did not grasp the landowner’s outlook on society, on life in general, on Christian business principles, and on kindness to others around them. 

Different interpretations, in my understanding, have been given to the verse about the first being last and the last being first.  In view of Matthew’s associating it with today’s parable, and then substantially repeating it, but in its reverse order at the end of the parable (verse 16), probably means that all who respond to the call of Jesus at whatever time (first or last), will be inheriting the benefits of the kingdom: the gift of God.  In other words, Matthew is suggesting through Jesus’ parable, that the equality of all the disciples is in the reward of inheriting eternal life.

When the landowner said to the laborers (verse 4), “What is just,” I recognized that he did not actually saying what they would be paid as a wage.  Although the wage was not stipulated, it is clear to the reader that it would be a fair wage for the amount of time worked.  I, as most people would have assumed, believed that these and the subsequent would-be hires for the day would be paid less.  But in God’s Kingdom there are no differences, no prejudices, and no separations.  All in heaven are joyful, pure, and perfected before the throne of God.

Verse 8, Beginning with the last . . . the first” is the catalysis that open this story to a potentially controversial discussion and various opinions.  This particular aspect of the story has no other purpose that I can see, other than to show how the first laborers knew what the last laborers were paid (verse 12).

In verse 13, the landowner says two distinctive articles or phrases, “My friend,” and “I am not cheating you.” In calling the laborers his friend, he is expressing a caring for that individual, and that he wished a type of special relationship with that individual.  He further stresses that he was not treating anyone unjustly.  He only asked for the laborer to perform a certain function, and then paid him what he promised.  This landowner’s relationship with another individual should be of no concern to anyone else.  The landowner gave to the laborer what he promised him.

This reflection on the above paragraph makes me think about something my Spiritual Director had to say one day.  We were talking about the graces and talents each of us are given.  He pointed out the two coffee cups on our table, one small and one much larger.  He said that when each cup is totally full – they are totally full and can hold no more.  That is how graces and talents are with us.  We can be totally full of grace, and though one of our “cups” is larger than the other, it makes no difference – both are totally full of grace!  Can the “cup” get larger?  Definitely, but it makes no difference on what God can give; He gives us all we can hold! 

The laborers, at first sight, had an appropriate grievance against the landowner. They worked more, so they deserved more than those that only worked a “few” hours and not all day, even if it meant that their fellow co-workers had to suffer.  In hindsight, and in consideration of today’s economic environment, they (and we) need to see things from another viewpoint.  They received something else that day besides the “fair” wage: they received a JOB!  These laborers were bringing home money to their families.

Everyone needs to look at this situation in today’s Gospel from the viewpoint of the last laborers to be hired for that day.  Standing on that street all day, without any income had to be a major stressor.  Their concerns for their family’s welfare had to weigh heavy on their minds.  What a cross to carry for them.  For most of the day, they worried how they were going to feed and clothe their loved one’s (not to mention college educations).  Then this stranger, at the end of the day, offers them a job.  How excited and relieved do you think those men were?  Do you think they were appreciative workers, doing their best?  When we say that something is “unfair,” please take a second look, as it may very well not only be fair, but the Christian thing to do!

God asks of us to do certain things, and if we do them we will be compensated with what He has promised.  Others may be asked to certain things differently, and the truly lucky ones are going to be asked to do more.  Yep, those of us that have arrived early, and are affected by the grace of our Lord, are given more graces to share. 

Grace is like that elusive mustard seed found often in bible parables: it starts as a small, nearly invisible seed on our soul.  With care and love, it grows to engulf (in a very good way) our soul, faith, and our relationships with other.  Those that find the redemption and salvation of God’s promise, through the Sacrament of the Anointing while on their deathbed, will not have enough time to nurture a huge tree of graces like those that others may grow over many years, but will still have the same bounty as all others.  There is NO difference in the eternal joy and magnificence of being in the presence of our Lord Jesus, and His (and our) beautiful Mother, Mary.  Heaven is the ultimate “Equal Opportunity” crowd.

The landowner’s conduct of hiring throughout the day involves no violation of law, justice, or gratitude towards any of the laborers.  His only “problem per-se” was having the virtue of generosity towards the later hires.  In my belief, virtues are a trait or quality deemed to be morally excellent and valued as a foundation for principles of life, and good morality and ethics in decisions.  Virtues promote the individual and collective societies well being.

The laborers resentment over the “fair” wage is a sin of vice: it is “envy.”  Envy is a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, and so on.  In other words, the laborers are breaking the 10th Commandment: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s property.”  Envy is a deadly, capital, or cardinal sin (depending on which catechism you read).  Envy is not a light matter; it is a “mortal” sin that destroys the life of grace, and creates a threat of eternal damnation in hell to the individual, if un-repented.

Until recently, I thought the landowner was totally unfair to the early risers; the ones that were willing to get to work early.  Upon meditation and reflection, I have realized that this “unfairness” was certainly not the case at all.  Regardless of the individual situations any of these workers may have had, the landowner treated each and every one on a fair, equal, and loving basis. 

Many of us have been given more than we need in life.  In comparison to the extreme and devastating poverty in many parts of the world, we actually live as royalty.  How generous are we with what we have earned or been given.  On a daily basis, we are given many opportunities to share what we have with others.  This sharing does not only mean materialistic items; it also means our spiritual wealth as well, through prayers and kindness to the others we meet.

God wants to treat each of us as the landowner did.  In Matthew 20:7, it is written, “You too go into my vineyard.  “Any of us who responds to Jesus’ call, and each of us has a distinct and unique calling, regardless of the time (first or last) in our lives, will receive “the same” in inheriting all the benefits of God’s kingdom.  And please do not forget that heaven is a grace in itself; a gift of God.

 

“Prayer after Confession”

 

“O almighty and most merciful God, I give You thanks with all the powers of my soul for this and all other mercies, graces, and blessings bestowed on me, and prostrating myself at Your sacred feet, I offer myself to be henceforth forever Yours.  Let nothing in life or death ever separates me from You!  I renounce with my whole soul all my treasons against You, and all the abominations and sins of my past life.  I renew my promises made in Baptism, and from this moment I dedicate myself eternally to Your love and service.  Grant that for the time to come, I may detest sin more than death itself, and avoid all such occasions and companies as have unhappily brought me to it.  This I resolve to do by the aid of Your divine grace, without which I can do nothing. Amen.”

From Catholic Prayers Website
http://www.yenra.com/catholic/prayers

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Jane Frances de Chantal (1562-1641)

 

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. She developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.

Jane’s husband was killed after seven years of marriage, and she sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home. Her father-in-law threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women) began when Jane Frances was 45. She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit—interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

Comment:

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

Quote:

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth” (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #18 of 26:

 


Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.

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3 responses »

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this scripture with us. Particularly to me. It has been useful for me as i am reading the book of Matthews and analysing it in order to put everything into practice. I got the answer for Matthew 20:1-16.

    Be blessed.

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