Wednesday of the TwentiethWeek in Ordinary Time

The work and the fair remuneration

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others  …and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ … ‘ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening …those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came … also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us … He said to one of them in reply … Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? … (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? …”  Mt 20,1-15

When I was young, when the time for the harvest was gradually approaching, in my country of Tuscany we were used to talk always about it. Then, when the grape harvest began, it was all a feast; we sweated and worked happily under the still hot sun of  the last remnant of the summer. By  noon time the housewife was normally coming with bottles of chilled wine, bread, baking pans and pans of freshly cooked food, all loaded on a cart pulled by the oxen. We then interrupted the work of the harvest, using the shade of the trees and eating, each according to his need, not  in correspondence with the amount for which we had worked. I remember those days with nostalgia, because in my life I have not found a way of working and collaborating equally joyous. Unfortunately, we often live our work as a time-only effort, without the possibility of joy. When we lose the aspect of the joy, we begin to weigh the ones who work more and those who work less and we compare the salaries with the merits, without regard to the talents which everyone has received and to the needs which everyone has. The salaries  have always been governed by the merit system – and even by the time of Jesus it was so – but the tragic aspect which this parable brings to the light is the fact that the world does not perceive the distribution criteria of the welfare as being different from the efficiency. It is true that, in the advanced countries, the issue of the needs is reconsidered by the social and voluntary compensations, but in doing so the society is divided into winners and losers, into those who are maintained and into those who maintain the others, with the  resulting negative consequences: pride, excessive self-esteem and sense of omnipotence on the one hand; depression, humiliation and, sometimes, opportunism and negligence. But, if the merit system would be touched, the entire economic and productivity system would be blown up. The kingdom of heaven, however, does not work in this way and this is proven by the fact that the only one who had the heaven secured, even before his death, was the good thief, one who converted himself by the last moment: in the football game it would be spelt out in the Cesarini zone.

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