“Life is not fair!” How often do we lament these words verbally or in the silence of our hearts? How frequently do we hear this statement made by others as well? When one reads the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:1-16) using the logic of labour’s market, one is likely to feel the sense of injustice for the workers who have worked the whole day and received the same wages as those who did not. How easily do we fall into this trap when we see our fellow colleagues who did not do a good job being recognized by the boss?  Another common struggle is the ‘unfairness’ treatment by parents between siblings. Sometimes, we accuse parents of showing favoritism or paying more attention to our siblings. Our search to find the meaning in life’s fairness – to find the “why” – seems to be an inescapable aspect of being human. We search for explanations to life’s challenges with our human minds and constantly needs a reason to justify it. In today’s Gospel reading we are reminded that life is not measured by duration but God’s abundant generosity and divine grace. Grace can never be earned. God does not look at how long we work or live but rather how we work and live. We are invited to use the logic of God’s unconditional love for everyone to enjoy eternal life.

An interpretation, given by Saint John Chrysostom, is that the vineyard refers to “the commandments of God, and the time of working refers to the present life.” The workers are those who are “who have come forward at different ages and lived justly.” Some are baptized as babies and remain in the family of God their entire lives, some enter the Church as adults, and some accept Christ on their deathbeds. Those who might think this is unfair, fail to appreciate that the issue is not who is most deserving, but Who is most merciful. It is God who has pity on man, and invites him to work in the vineyard, and who pays the generous wage.

St John Chrysostom believes that the purpose of the Laborers in the Vineyard parable is to “render more earnest them that are converted and become better men in extreme old age, and not to allow them to suppose they have a less portion.” Those first laborers who complain, then, serve as a warning for long time Christians not to envy how such “latecomers” are treated. St John Chrysostom entreats his hearers to “use much diligence both to stand in the right faith, and to show forth an excellent life. For unless we add also a life suitable to our faith, we shall suffer the most extreme punishment” (64.4).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expounds on the image of the vineyard in these words: “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.” (CCC # 755)

At times, we might face with unjust situations and find it hard to accept them. Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Is 55:8-9). Lord, help us be as generous as You are. Help us enter Your vineyard with gratitude daily for we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Dickson & Cindy