Parable of the Vineyard Laborers

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The  kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.  Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage.  And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

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The landowner, whose decision to pay all the workers the same was an act of mercy — not injustice — represents God, whose grace and mercy are shed abundantly upon those of His choosing.  His grace and mercy are given to those whose works could never obtain it. His grace is sufficient to redeem all who believe. Whether God calls someone early or late in life to partake of His grace, the glory and praise for our salvation is His and in no way amounts to unfairness. Just as the landowner has a right to do what he wishes with his own money, so does God have the right to have mercy as He desires.

No matter how long or how hard a believer works during his lifetime, the reward of eternal life will be the same given to all — an eternity of bliss in heaven in the presence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The thief on the cross, whose life of service was limited to a moment of repentance and confession of faith in Christ, received the same reward of eternal life as the apostle Paul.  Scripture also teaches that there are different rewards in heaven for different services, but the ultimate reward of eternal life will be achieved by all equally.

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Whenever I heard this parable during my formative years, I interpreted it in the laborers’ perspective without paying due attention to the landowner.

The laborers represent people and the landowner represents God, who was just for the earliest group of workers, increasingly generous for the intermediate groups of workers and compassionate for the latest group of workers. Christ, who will give each person a private audience in the upcoming Illumination of Conscience, is just, generous, and compassionate. Christ redeemed us on a Cross to save us all. The Warning and Illumination of Conscience comprises the Mercy of God outpouring over Humanity.

Embrace Grace when it comes your way. Christ invites us to seek Conversion, Penance and Prayer on the evening of the Illumination of Conscience.

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