Twenty-FifthSunday in Ordinary Time
The right wage
“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 standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ … (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, … He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay … When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner … He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend … Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?…What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? …Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Mt 20,1-16
This parable of the workers called to work for several hours in the vineyard is perhaps the most difficult to be digested for a modern society like ours, where the wage of the workers is governed by the principle of the meritocracy. It is a criterion which stimulates the commitment of the workers, fundamental for the efficiency of a company, but it is not the only one to be taken into account. There is another criterion to be met, to which affirmation more than a century ago the trade unions and the labor struggles were originated: the pay system must be adequate to ensure a decent maintenance of each employee and of his family. Even in Palestine, at the time of Jesus, the same principle of fair pay was in force, which was a penny per day, and the owner of the vineyard gives this amount to the first and to the last ones to the purpose that everyone can eat and live with dignity. Let’s leave the metaphor of the parable and let’s enter in the theological message: the prize which the Lord gives to all the workers of the kingdom of heaven is the salvation. He cannot give two salvations to the ones who arrived first or half salvation to those who came after. The salvation is salvation, or you are in or you are out. Unfortunately, this goodness of the Lord who gives the same salvation to all the converts, also to the ones of the last minute, is not always shared in the deep of the heart. It has not been such since the beginning, when the first Jerusalem church had difficulty to follow Paul in his project to proclaim the gospel also to the gentiles. It is because of this reason that the latter will become the former, because he will have more recognition and more joy. Unless the former is not so great enough to enjoy even for the the latter.