25th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
September 23, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
The grumbling of those who have worked all day is similar to the
grumbling of the elder Brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Like
the Prodigal Son we never know what they did in response to the owner’s
Act I: hirings.
At the outset there is a surprising note. The householder (and not
his steward) goes out from “early in the morning” until the eleventh hour
to assemble the workers. The hearers are given a hint that their normal
view of the world is to be challenged. Different wage agreements: first
group: normal days’s wage; hired in the third hour: whatever is right;
hired in the sixth and ninth hour: presumably “whatever is right”;
eleventh hour: no mention of payment.
Act II: payments_
the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman
Normally those who had worked l2 hours would be the first to be
paid. If that had happened, they would have left happy. But the
reversal,inversion, in the order of pay lets those who had worked all day
find out what the others have received. As we stand with the workers
and watch the payment, when those who are hired last receive a denarius,
we begin to have the same feelings as those hired first they thought that they would receive more
Act III Dialogue between the owner and the grumbling workers:
l)I am not cheating you.
2) Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
3) I question your attitude. Are you envious because I am generous?’
The complaint of the dissatisfied workers is, strictly speaking, you
have made them equal to us. They are defining their personal worth in
contrast to others; they are not so much angered by what happened to
them as envious of the good fortune of the other workers. They are so
enclosed in their understanding of justice that it becomes a norm by
which they become judges of others. They want to order the world by
their norms which limit the master’s freedom and exclude unexpected
The line between following God’s will and deciding what God wills is
always thin and fragile.
The grumblers claim that making one hour equal to those who have
worked all day is unfair. The first group of workers have at the end of
the story exactly what they had contracted for in the beginning. They
would have been satisfied with that if it had not been for the treatment
given the group that only worked one hour.
Notice that they are never denied their reward, just their
complaint. Whatever they lose, they lose in their own feelings of
hostility and resentment.
We human beings are curious. When we look at someone who is the
beneficiary of some generosity we want a strict system of justice. But
if we are the beneficiary of some generosity we wonder at those who have
complaints. They are just jealous.
For who among us does not yearn to find a welcome, a helping hand,
an unexpected privilege, even when we do not deserve it.
Jesus showed us that God does not love us because we are wonderful,
but rather, we are wonderful (or can be) because God loves us. DO I
LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE WONDERFUL OR ARE YOU WONDERFUL BECAUSE I LOVE YOU?