There are many ways to shock an audience: the right twist in a plot, the unsettling image or expression on a face, eerie music, or a few unexpected words that change everything. The parables often shocked Jesus’ audience, and this one still gets under our skin today in the same way.
This parable forces us to compare our human understanding against the divine logic – how high God’s ways above our ways and His thoughts above our thoughts. We tend to focus on the injustice of no “hourly wage” for the stewards, and this often makes it impossible for us to accept, or even sometimes see, the message that Our Lord wishes to give us in the parable. Here the message is this: God’s love is for our benefit, our flourishing; and that Love is generous and pursuing; and that Love has no favorites.
We first need to understand who is who: God is the employer who pays the workers, us, who follow His bidding.
Another thing that helps us to understand the parable is that these laborers are “day laborers,” people who do not have a stable job but have to rely day by day on these kind of little tasks to provide for their own sustenance and needs. These are the “unemployed” who “will work for food,” as we often see today people holding signs to such effect.
It is important to notice that there are no other characters in the scene. If God is the employer and we are the day-laborers, then within the parable Christ is trying to show us that we are all in the same position: we all have a serious lack before God: we need His Grace, his Love, his Mercy and Forgiveness for our sins. It shows us that God is the only one who is really able to employ us: nothing else satisfies – there is no other meaningful work, no other meaningful way of spending our life.
He comes, finds us, calls us to serve Him, and then generously bestows on us these things we need and even the greater gifts of heaven besides.
And in the “day” that represents our whole lives, some are called later than others, but still receive the same generous portion. While for those who work from the beginning of the day, their joy is found in having a meaning and purpose for their lives. Their life is not in limbo, waiting, searching, lost. They can say at any moment, “I know who my Master is and I know the great reward he will give me for my labors.” And this gets at why it is wrong for us to be shocked into a reaction of injustice: we are forgetting what the reward is. The reward God offers us is eternal life, perfect happiness, freedom from pain and suffering. What more is there? What else can we want?!
And this is where stewardship and sacrificial giving comes in. As a parish, we have made that choice: we have renewed our commitment to being stewards of our baptismal promises during Lent; we renewed our stewardship to humble service during the past Easter Season for this year, and now it is time to renew our commitment to sacrificial giving. The parish already does this, increasing our 7% commitment to 8% this year (5 to Adalbert, 3 to poor). We are building ourselves slowly toward the goal of a biblical tithe, 10%.
Father Bill is asking all of us, myself included, to pray for guidance by the Holy Spirit as we discern our sacrificial gift for this year. Please include a portion of that gift to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which we will begin next week with the video explaining the needs of our Diocese. At that time you will also receive a financial report of the parish that shows how we accomplish our stewardship that frees us from doing fundraisers.
“Seek the Lord while He may be found” Isaiah says. Don’t wait! Don’t wander around lost, confused, without a master to serve, indeed the only one who can give us meaning to our lives. Find the Master who will give you all that you need and more. Serve him fully and know the joy that is found in that complete self-abandonment to Divine Providence.