Let's look at the parable of the laborers through the lens of discipleship. Jesus is always discipling His apostles, and the apostles are the ones who have been working the longest in the vineyard. Viewed from the context of discipleship, Jesus never misses an opportunity to teach His disciples about mercy. After all, it is mercy He desires (Mt 9:13), even more than the sacrifice of working long hours in His service (Mt 20:1-2).
So, to teach His disciples about mercy, Jesus takes His faithful servants, who have worked all "day in the scorching heat" (Mt 20:12) and sits them at His feet to teach them more about His favorite subject, the mercy of God. This entire parable is also meant to teach us who work long and hard for Him about mercy. That's why we longtime workers must sit and watch the short-timers receive God's mercy and generosity. If we focus on little things, like the amounts of money doled out, we miss the most important things, which are the joy of the master in being generous, and the lesson Jesus teaches us that "mercy triumphs over" justice (Jas 2:13).
It's so much a part of our human nature to be caught up in fairness and justice. That's why so many people struggle with this parable, thinking that the master treated the hard workers unfairly. If we realize that God is always teaching us about mercy, we will look not at the master's money when he passes it out, but at his face, which shines with joy whenever he shows mercy. We will celebrate the mercy of God (Lk 15:32) and delight in mercy (Mi 7:18) as He does, because He "is rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4).
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from August 1, 2011 through September 30, 2011.
†Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, February 1, 2011.