•Isaiah 55:6-9 • Philippians 1: 20-24, 27 • Matthew 20:1-16•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scientists tell us there was a explosion nearly 14 billion years ago — the first “Big Bang.” It
resulted in this amazing cosmos. The creative process of evolution was underway. Initial forms of life emerged 10 billion years later and “beautiful, complex creatures interacting in life-sustaining ecosystems soon covered this planet. We who walk upright and know we know are among them.
In this parable Matthew is telling us something about we who are as human beings and
something about God. Of the four evangelists, Matthew alone includes this parable in his gospel. He does so because Gentiles were seeking membership in his community. This caused resentment among the Jewish-Christians.
Matthew’s Jesus introduces this parable about “a landowner who went in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” as he does most of the parables. He says, “the kingdom of heaven is LIKE …” “The kingdom of heaven” was the passion burning in his heart.
Scholars think this parable was Matthew’s creative way of encouraging his community to accept Gentiles. Jewish members of his community would see themselves as the workers hired at dawn to work the vineyards and the Gentiles as those hired in the last hours.
So let’s consider what the parable says about us! I suggest Teilhard deChardin can help us in our effort. He was a Jesuit priest paleontologist. His research and theological background convinced him that as a species we humans are not yet fully evolved, not yet fully human. This is why Jesus of Nazareth is such a unique person. He is the first among us to become fully human. Great spiritual writers advocate the “imitation of Christ” because Christ models for us what God intends us to be.
I see “the landlord” in this parable as an example or model of what it means to be fully human. He was persistent in reaching out and inviting. He treated everyone equally. He was generous. In other words he loved everyone unconditionally. That is what it is to be fully human.
On the other hand, “the laborers” are an example or model of what it means to be less than fully human. They were envious and grumbled. They thought they deserved more than the
latecomers. They protested the landowner’s generosity. They have not yet understood and
embraced a life of unconditional love. Until they do so, they will remain less than fully human.
Now let’s consider what the parable says about God. If “the owner of the vineyard” is an image of what God is like, this parable is revolutionary! It breaks down all our long-held expectations, images and misconceptions of this Gracious Mystery.
The image portrayed is entirely beyond our comprehension. “The landowner’s” love is
unconditional. Instead of counting how many hours each worked, he simply responds to the worker’s needs and gives everyone what they and their family need to eat that night. The landowner – God — wants peace and well being — a fully human life for everyone.
The point is God’s unconditional love embraces all peoples, everyone, regardless of whether they deserve it or not! “Everyone” means “people of faith,” as well as atheists or agnostics, self-centered politicians, instigators of war, perpetrators of torture or genocide, and there are no exceptions. “God’s goodness overflows all our calculations, and goes beyond both the faith of believers and the atheism of nonbelievers.”
Fourteen billion years after the “Big Bang” the creative process of evolution continues. The “signs of the times” tell us we are at a decisive juncture, a new threshold in the evolution of the human species. The parable invites us to cross that threshold, to embrace the way of unconditional love and to become like Jesus — more fully human.