How do we react when we hear of someone who experienced a “deathbed conversion?” Do we rejoice that the person has found God, and has become open to receiving His mercy? Or do we perhaps grumble a bit, thinking that they “got off easy” simply because they did not have to struggle to live the commandments for their entire life?
The parable in today’s Gospel deals exactly with this theme. We see a generous landowner who goes out several times during the day to hire labourers for his vineyard, promising to pay each of them what is just. At the end of the day, everyone receives the usual daily wage. This is great for those who only worked for one hour, but perhaps seems a bit unfair for those who laboured for the entire day. This parable, however, challenges us to remember that God doesn’t work in the way that we expect him to, and that God’s ways are not our ways. We hear that expressed quite clearly in our first reading from Isaiah!
When we consider this parable, coupled with the words of Isaiah, it helps us to understand that the gift of salvation we receive from the Lord is just that: a gift. The Lord freely gives us that gift at whatever point we come to faith in him. This is a reminder to us that we do not save ourselves. We are saved by a God who loves us, who is generous in forgiving, and who is close to all who call upon him. Instead of being envious about this fact and grumbling about those whose faith is not as strong as ours, we should rejoice when others do find faith, and use that occasion as an opportunity to give thanks to God for his infinite love.
The more that we can cultivate this “attitude of gratitude” in our lives, the more it can help us to resist the temptation to judge or grumble against others. After all, comparison is the thief of joy. If we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, we will find that we lose the ability to be grateful for the things that we do have. Instead of always looking at others, and judging them, we are called to look inward: to examine our own lives, give thanks to God for his ever-present love, and ask ourselves how we can better reflect the mercy and love that God has shown us by giving us the gift of his salvation. After all, it is that mercy and love, which radiates through us, which helps to lead others to faith in God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB