The quality of our output
How can one justify the same payment for those who have worked for the whole day and those who worked just for one hour? Is it really possible especially in contexts where labourers are paid per number of hours they worked? It is really customary that those who work longer should earn better than those who work shorter hours! Jesus however breaks this convention!
Our human thinking does not correspond always to that of the divine. Isaiah tells us clearly in the First Reading : “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways ….Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts”. God is merciful and pardons unconditionally, while we do not. God’s grace is generous and rewards everyone, saints as well as sinners, while we would like to make a difference. He gives the sinner opportunity even at the “last hour”: Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving.
This radical difference is shown in the parable of the land owner, who hires labourers at different times of the day, but rewards everyone with the same sum of money. Even though some worked only for one hour, their wages were no less than what the first comers earned. All workers were remunerated on the basis of their equal need for sufficient livelihood, not on the basis of the hours they had put into the work. Therefore, it is not the length of time spent on the job that really matters, but the effort put into it and more to that, the quality of the output.
In the light of God’s plan for salvation for all humanity rather than the Jews alone, this parable stands out as a good example. God called the Jews a long time ago to build his kingdom on earth. Now, at an apparently late hour, God was calling the Gentiles to work with them in building up the same divine kingdom. “The men who came last” were treated the same as those who “have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” This is so because salvation has no dimensions or degrees. The same reward (salvation and heavenly bliss) is to be given to the Christians of all ages with no preferential treatment or exclusive divine prerogatives. This salvation, according to Peter (Acts 10:34) is to be given without partiality, to anyone from every nation, who fears God and acts uprightly.
In our Christian lives, there are those who were born Christians. Their parents have been Christians before them and they were baptised in infancy and in no short time they had received their First Holy Communion, Confirmation and even celebrated their Church Wedding. Others embraced Christianity in the secondary school or in the university. Yet others received these sacraments almost nearing their graves. Just like in the parable of the Talents (Mathew 25:14-30), it does not matter the number of talents received but the way it is fructified. Some may have received all these sacraments but buried their talents in the ground.
The ideal in our following of Christ lies in the quality of our engagement and not only in the quantity. Nothing says that a born Christian will always be worse than someone who became a Christian as an adult. The ideal is that we strive to be the best Christian that we can be, whether we have been Christians all our lives or we embraced Christianity in the tail end of our lives.
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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