Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kingdom of Heaven

Last Sundays Gospel Reading, and our Parish Fathers Homily about this parable, was significant and I am compelled to publish it here. I have been meditating this understanding frequently since then.

First the reading:

Mt 20:1-16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
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.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 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.’
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?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

If we insist on legalistic results from God for our own life, that being... compensation measured by merited effort, then we are taking Mercy off the table from God for us. If we insist that God "play fair" on our limited human level of justice, then we are insisting he never grant us more than we deserve, which is the definition of Divine Mercy. Gods "generosity" transcends our own human equivalent, it has to.

The last three lines are exponentially revealing. Are we envious of Gods ability? Do we "box" God into what we believe "just reward" is in an earthly meaning? Sure we do.

The last will be first is a repeated lesson fom Christ Jesus in other Gospels and provides an example to follow once again in multiple ways. In this stated parable as a description of the "Kingdom of Heaven", Jesus clues us into a new reality of "fairness" to be experienced now.


~Joseph the Worker said...

Back when I was Protestant I heard a really neat story that was related to this Gospel reading. A man who had never been baptized was baptized about 3 months before he died, and the preacher related it to this reading, saying that he still had a reward in Heaven even though some were Christians their entire life, he was only for 90 days and still received that same reward.