“God is generous to a fault!” Reflection for 25th Sunday
The gospel reading of this Sunday is quaintly called the ‘labourers in the vineyard’.
Nowadays, we do not have the so-called labourers, only workers or employees.
And in Ireland, we certainly do not have fields growing grapes!
The parable brings us back to the times of seasonal workforces, of men standing around in the early morning sun, in market squares, waiting to be hired, and of employers picking, randomly and on superficial first impressions, the more likely good workers.
It all smacks of unfairness, uncertainty and insecurity, of a full twelve-hour day being worked for a penny, in the blazing sun and scorching heat of the Middle East.
So how is the underlying moral of the parable story relevant to us in the 21st century?
At a first reading, the gospel seems to be at odds with real life.
The daily wage in those gospel days was the usual one of a Roman denarius a day, in modern coinage about €100.
The day’s work started at six in the morning and ends at sunset. Not for the lazy or faint of heart!
The owner of the vineyard, employs casual labour, for a day or for some hours at a time in temporary or seasonal work at best.
Not a permanent pensionable job in sight!
There are also a number of things quite odd about the employer.
While he does have a vineyard or farm manager, it is he himself who is up at the crack of dawn to do the early morning hiring.
He believes in paying, quoting his own words ‘whatever is right’. So much for the ‘minimum wage’!
When evening comes, he has his manager pay each of the workers €100, irrespective of the number of hours each had worked.
He really has a strange employment policy and sense of generosity.
In this sense, God does not pay for the hours of work done.
God pays each person because each has respected the contract, the bargain, the agreement or covenant made with each person.
No exceptions! No one omitted!
God does not do exceptions.
God keeps his word and remembers those who have kept faith with him.
God is simply generous with his gifts and his grace.