Scripture for Aug. 21: Judges 9:6-15. Psalm 21:2-3,4-5,6-7. Matthew 20:1-16:
Our readings for today are examples of the power of a parable. Both the parable in Judges and the one given by Jesus are valuable for us to see how God works both in history and in our ordinary human work days. The parable in Judges shows us that the trees represent different responses to the call of leadership; the one that is considered a bramble or thorn bush offers us a selfish type of leader who rules solely with power. The Schechemites of the northern temple chose Abimelech who was a ruthless and worthless bramble bush to lead them. He is one of the worst judges of Israel during this time.
The Gospel parable is told by Jesus and it startles everyone who reads it for the first time. Parables take time to realize what the teaching is. Ths parable illustrates that God is just and God is magnanimous in generosity even to those who come to him at the last moment to work in the vineyard. Those who came earlier receive a just wage, but they are angry that the last ones were treated the same as they were in the money offered to them by the Master. Envy and resentment are seen in the earlier workers. This parable does not suit our American culture and its appreciation for hard workers. But it is not about culture, it is about a God who searches out those who can contribute even a little to the plan of salvation. It is not a matter of living a carefree life and then trying to convert to God at the last moment and come home to heaven. The emphasis in the parable is on God who is more merciful than just. God wants mercy and not sacrifice from us.
Jesus uses the parable and other parables to jolt us out of our way of reasoning about what is just and not just. We often forget about God’s mercy and try to foist his justice on those whom we do not like. God is superabundant in mercy even for late comers. At the coming of God’s kingdom at the end of time, all earthly priorities will be turned upside down In this parable “the generosity of the master of the vineyard in giving beyond what has been earned; it is this element which really makes the continuity between the original lesson of the parable and its present situation.” (H. Wansbrough, O.S.B.).
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.