23 August 2006: Wednesday of the 20th Year in Ordinary Time
Matthew 20:1-16: The Workers in the Vineyard

A few things have to be said about the Gospel today. 1) Matthew only has this parable; 2) The vineyard owner normally goes to the market place only once, to hire the day’s laborers; on average, he hires all the manpower he needs for the day. 3) The structure of the story is a literary device to show a progressive contrast between the morning and the evening laborers, therefore, providing the setting for the story.

The point of the Gospel is simple. Just as a vineyard owner who hires laborers at different hours and times of the day and gives the same full salary to all, God rewards the Kingdom of God to all even to the latecomers. This is in contrast with what we know about justice: salaries are paid according to the labor rendered, and the hours spent at work.

This is very consoling to all those who think that it is too late to change. This parable is an encouragement to all Christians and a good thing to remember: God is concerned about the latecomers. The gesture of generosity comes from the love and kindness God himself.

And on our part, we do not seek a reward for every good thing we do; doing and serving God is itself the reward. This is easy to understand when you love someone. The lover--- that is you --- does not ask for a reward for all the good things you do for the one you love. Serving the beloved is pleasurable and enjoyable. The beloved himself or herself is the reward.

St. Ignatius has a very good prayer that brings this point clearly: that working for God, knowing that we are doing what God wills for us, is itself the reward. It is a prayer for generosity.

Prayer for Generosity

Lord, teach us to be generous.

Teach us to serve you as you deserve

To give and not to count the cost.

To fight and not to heed the wounds.

To toil and not to seek for rest.

To labor and not to ask for reward.

Save that of knowing, that I do Your most holy will.

Note: Fr. Jose Blanco SJ, my novice master passed away this week. I do not have much time posting something new, but for those who might have some use to old homilies, this might do in the meantime. At busy weekdays, my homilies are done often an hour before mass time, thus posting them a week late.

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