Mission Society of the Philippines



Mt 20: 1-16

WORK IS A divine attribute. The God whom we know is a working God. God worked in the creation of the universe. Then God, through his Son, came into the world, he became man, was crucified, died, and rose on the third day, so that human beings would be saved. Thus the Son worked for the salvation of the human beings. Then God, through the Holy Spirit, continuously sanctifies us and the world. The plan of salvation is indeed an enormous task and all the three Persons in one God have been involved in this task. What could be the effects of God’s work in our lives?
Firstly, God calls us to work. The world is a vast vineyard, and God hires workers to work in it. In today’s gospel parable, we heard of a landowner who hired workers in different hours of the day. Like the landowner, God does not want us to stand idle all day. If we are God’s creatures, if we are created in his “image and likeness”, then we must be also working human beings. People who hate to work are people who have a wrong understanding of themselves. There is a beauty of work. When we work, we participate in the work of God. In doing such, we are also “divinized” because we share in this divine attribute of God. While saying this, we have to take note that there are people who, because of some awful economic conditions, have failed to work. Our sympathy is towards them. We need to support them because “unemployment” is evil. Consequently, if unemployment rate is high, it would be a failure and shame to the government which is tasked to provide opportunities for each one to work.
Secondly, God also asks us to work for our salvation. The parable we heard in the gospel is a history of our salvation. The first people hired by the landowners refer to the Jews. It is a privilege for the Jews to be first invited and to have a share in the blessings of salvation. The rest of the people hired by the landowner refer to the Gentiles. The Gentiles have also a share in the blessings of salvation. We are part of it. Although we have been already saved by Christ who died on the cross, it is nevertheless necessary for us to “appropriate” this salvation. We need to labor hard for it so that in the end we can say to ourselves that “I earned it!” or “I own it!” This is the essence of the teaching of the Council of Trent. It teaches us that although we are saved by the grace of Christ, a “human cooperation” is still necessary. Christ’s saving us would be useless if it does not make us a new person, a new being, and a new creation.
Thirdly, God is generous and gracious. At first blush, we may agree with those people who complained to the landowner because he can be unjust to the first hired workers. In our world today, where rights of workers are being highlighted or supported, we could think that what the landowner had done in the parable was not right. It is against the law of justice and equity. But the parable is not a story which deals with equal rights for all. It does not deal with an honest day’s work with an honest day’s pay. Rather, it deals with God who is generous and gracious. It simply demonstrates the generosity of God who welcomes and opens the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles who became his true believers. The Gentiles only came in later, but they instantly became true believers of God. Thus, they deserve the salvation promised by God.
This is the irony! While we are asked to labor hard in order for this salvation be attained by us, at the end of the day, it is the generosity and the graciousness of God which matter more. While we labor hard for our salvation, still, in the end, we will realize that we are saved because God is generous and gracious. In the end, we will realize that we are saved by the grace and graciousness of God, and not merely because of our own individual efforts. Amen.

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