SFX Bulletin, 20 September 2014: Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are always considering our own self-interests. The question, “What’s In This For Me?” is always in our minds. Like the first group of workers in today’s parable of the workers in the vineyard, we may even demand specifics – in this case, a denarius (cf. v.2).
In this parable, the “denarius” symbolise truth and eternal life (Eucharist). The “bailiff” is Jesus who willingly gives of himself in the Eucharist to all whom God, the “landowner”, has called into the vineyard. The vineyard is the Church. The work in the vineyard is the harvesting of souls for holiness – the very work we celebrate today in Catechetical Sunday. The marketplace is the world where many “stand idle” (v.6) until God calls them to toil and be rewarded in His Kingdom vineyard.
Reflecting on this parable, Pope Emeritus said, “The first message of this parable is…the very fact that the landowner does not tolerate, as it were, unemployment: he wants everyone to be employed in his vineyard” (Angelus, 21 September 2008). The vineyard – the Church or the People of God – is the only place where we can intimately encounter Jesus, the humble obedient “bailiff” who does not question the landowner’s judgement but obeys His decision and thus makes visible His compassion and generosity. At the double table of the Word and the Body of Christ, we hear and learn of God’s saving help; we receive the Eucharist, Jesus’ heart, to help us be transformed into kindly and holy people for ourselves and others. As we conscientiously live this divine life, the joy experienced should propel our evangelizing and catechetical actions. As such, Pope Emeritus observed, “Actually, being called is already the first reward: to be able to work in the Lord's vineyard, to put oneself at his service, to collaborate in his work, is in itself a priceless recompense that repays every effort. Yet only those who love the Lord and his Kingdom understand this: those who instead work only for the pay will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure”.
Being at Mass must therefore be a “rewarding” experience! However, a worldly or “marketplace” mindset can be an impediment. The first workers were focused only on earthly gains or recognition. Even after a whole day – symbolizing a long period of church-life - they could not see the “priceless recompense” and “inestimable treasure” in the Church and her sacraments. They “grumbled” and wanted only more material rewards failing to rejoice that by being called into the vineyard, they have crossed the threshold into life and eternal life in Jesus Christ. The same could happen to all the other workers if their hearts are still in the marketplace – they would only demand to be even more lavishly rewarded.
We must strive to mature towards a faith like St. Paul’s. For him, neither life nor death in itself has any significance except to manifest Jesus to others, “Christ will be glorified in my body” -“Life to me, is Christ” (vv.20-21).
We are living in the Church Age or the End Time in salvation history. The time for conversion is possible only while we are still on earth and this saving truth has the “urgent need” (Phi. 1:24) to be shared with others. The Catechism affirms this, “Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ” (CCC 1033). Like the prophet Isaiah, let us remind those already in the vineyard not to take God’s gift of faith for granted but deepen our interior life unceasingly, “Seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near” (Isa. 55:6). Since the marketplace is also to be the Lord’s vineyard because “the earth is the Lord’s” (Ps.24:1), let us be “good and faithful servants” (Mt. 25:21), sowing and watering the world with holiness so that God, in His own way and time, can give growth (1 Cor.3:6). That should be reward enough for us.