CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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God awards according to needs not merits

In the parable, the master provokes the anger of the workers of the first hour, who cannot even stand up for fatigue, when they are forced to witness an irritating scene of the same wages that they were promised being paid to the idlers. It is in this surprising and disconcerting behaviour of the master that the message of the parable is perceived. Let us analyse it deeper.
 
With the workers of the first hour he has agreed a silver coin, with others what will be just, with the last he had not agreed anything. What did the boss mean by just? 
 
The workers understand him according to their criteria of judgment. They are convinced that he will take account of the merits. The owner instead follows his own justice and distributes his goods in a completely free and open way. 
 
He does not wrong anyone; he just decides not to consider the merits. He gives everyone according to their needs and the first to be benefited are the last, the poorest (v.16). 
 
That is the surprise of God; that is his strange way of conceiving and practicing justice. 
 
The parable is the clearest and provocative denouncement that can be imagined of the religion of merits taught by the spiritual guides of Israel. The rabbis taught: “He who fulfills a precept acquires for himself a lawyer, who commits a transgression acquires for himself a prosecutor. All God’s judgments are based on measure for measure.” They completed their catechesis talking about books kept in heaven, on which the meritorious deeds and transgressions were carefully noted. 
 
With his parable, Jesus destroyed, forever, this self-righteous way of relating to God. The love of the Lord is never bought, conquered or assessed based on good works. It is received freely and in proportion to the need. God has filled the hungry with good things, but he sent the rich away empty (Luke 1:53). 
 
Many “just ones” feel an unacknowledged envy against one who, being converted at the last moment, had the good fortune to “work less”, to enjoy life more. Here is the error: to think that joy consists in being far from God and that faithfulness to his word deserves a prize. 
 
Blessed are the servants who came first in the vineyard of the Lord. They surely have also struggled. They have enjoyed the presence of the Lord since morning. The workers of the first hour are those who have spent every day of their lives in the intimacy with God and in listening to his Word. 
 
The others who presented themselves late at the appointment, who did not let themselves be found when the Lord came to call them, have lost many opportunities that were offered to them.
 
Ultimately in the Christian community, no one can think of oneself being superior to others, because no one can consider oneself a veteran because he got converted first, because he practices the gospel more faithfully. No one is master of the vineyard of the Lord; all are workers, all are brothers and sisters.
 
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ  
Claretian Publications
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/25th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-a-september-24-2017/