Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20-24,27; Matt 20:1-16a
In a homily book authored by Fr. Simplicio Apalisok, entitled Callings on the Crossroads, a story was told. An engineer was working in a construction firm that builds houses. He told himself: “I have been working hard for this company and what do I get? “I’m about to retire all my life, I am only making beautiful mansions for the rich people.”
One day the owner of the construction firm said to him: “I want you to construct a large and lovely house. I don’t care about the budget. I just want it done well.” But since the engineer was filled with resentment to his work, he wanted to embarrass the owner. “Anyway,” he reasoned, “I would be retiring soon.” So he built the house with sub-standard materials: rusty steels and roofs, old wood and fixtures. The façade was so impressive but he knew it would not last because of the poor quality of work and materials.
The time came for him to retire. He was summoned by the owner who said: “As my gratitude to your for your services in the company, I’m giving you the house that I instructed you to build. It was meant as a surprise for you.” He wanted to complain but it’s late.
How often do we forgive our brothers or sisters was our question last Sunday’s gospel. How much love do we give to our Christian duty is our question this Sunday’s gospel. Let us bear this in our mind that what is paramount is not the amount of service that we render but the love in which the service is carried out. In God’s eyes, all services, big or small are important and accounted for.
Before, this parable used to be read in the Church once a year. When I heard this for the first time I was quite a bit puzzled, it seemed what the landowner had done is unfair. Are those who labor longer deserving higher pay? It’s unfair also because those latecomers get the same wages with those who come earlier. It seemed that the landowner the meaning of justice – give what is due. In Tagalog, it is nakakatuwang isipin (it’s funny). The answer to this wonderment can be found towards the end of this parable which I tell later.
Let us start with the workmen who were hired first. See how their faces light up when the landowner finds them at dawn and offers the usual wages for a day’s work in his vineyard. Their children will not sleep at night with empty stomach. Now look at the laborers who were hired late in the afternoon. They were not lazy like Juan Tamad, only less lucky. They just stayed in the market because nobody hired them. But this landowner saw them and paid with a day’s wage. For us maybe, for an hour’s work is equivalent is equivalent top an hour’s pay also, if not, we loss. In Tagalog, nakakatuwang isipin. But what is more funny is about the one I read in the Nexus, the official publication of the graduate school of the Notre Dame of Dadiangas College (NDDC), in General Santos City, entitled Nakakatuwang Isipin. The author is anonymous. Some of my friends at NDDC teased me that I was the one who wrote it but I am not the one. It runs this way:
…na ang isang Peso sa Simbahan ay napakalaki ngunit napakaliit kung sa Mall
…na ang isang oras na Misa ay napakatagal samantalang kulang ito kung manood ng tv, maglaro, magtelebabad o matulog
…na ang overtime sa basketball ay nagiging super-exciting pero nagpoproblema naman tayo sa isang sermon na lumampas sa isang regular time
…na ang pagbabasa ng Biblia ay isang napakapagod na gawain samatalang wala naman tayong reklamo sa isang 200-300 pages na best-selling novel
…na kaagad tayong naniniwala sa ibinabalita sa newspaper ngunit kinukwestyon naman natin ang nasa Biblia
…na kadalasan ay gusto nating nasa unahan kung uupo sa isang concert pero sa hulihan naman kung uupo sa simbahan
…na hindi natin basta ma-insert sa ating schedule and isang regular prayer meeting samantalang dali-daling maisulat and schedule ng isang outing
…na kahit minsan hindi tayo nahuli sa trabaho pero palagi namang huli sa Misa
…na inaantabayanan natin ang isang dinner date ngunit kahit paggising ng maaga upang magsimba ay hindi magawa
…na kinikilala natin si Kristo bilang Dios ngunit mahirap namang ipakilala siya sa ating pamilya
…na ang bilis nating makaisip ng pag-uusapan sa isang kaibigan pero wala naman tayong masabi sa isang dasal
…na ang bilis nating maniniwala at tutungo sa direksyon na sinabi ng isang hindi kakilala samantalang ayaw naman natin sa direksyon ni Kristo
…na ang galing natin kung magreklamo pero hindi naman tayo marunong magpasalamat
…na gusto nating makinig si Kristo sa atin ngunit hindi naman tayo nakikinig sa kanya
… na kung may pagkakamali, sasabihin natin, “Lord, bakit ako pa?”, pero kung may tamang nagawa, sasabihin naman natin, “Wow! And galing ko!”
Pero teka, talaga bang nakakatuwang isipin ang lahat na ito?
Well, anyway this is just a reminder of our ingratitude to God. Actually its main focus is not on the laborers which are ourselves but on the landowner who is God. That our God is just to those he hired first, those old-timers and ahead of service because he gave to them what is due for them. But He is generous beyond all expectations to those who came late. That His Kingdom is open, not only to those who seem most undeserving, but also to many who to us seem utterly undeserving.
Let us bear this in mind that for God all services of love whether they are big or small are important and accounted for in His eyes.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A