My Dear Parishioners,
Today’s Gospel is a parable of the kingdom and, once again, it helps to confirm that the kingdom of heaven is truly something else. The concept of the kingdom of heaven is the second most frequent idea mentioned in the New Testament. It occurs 148 times.
When we say that a person is something else we mean that she or he is admirably out of the ordinary. In that sense, there is nothing in our experience like the kingdom of heaven as Jesus describes it. When people asked him questions about it, whether they were honest questions or hypocritical ones, Jesus would respond by saying, “Let me tell you a story….” or “the kingdom is like….” Ultimately, Jesus would explain that the kingdom is a place where the last becomes the first and the first last; where the exalted are humbled and the humble are exalted; where the one who is at the top has to be the servant of all the rest. Or the kingdom is portrayed like a net that has good fish and spoiled fish in it, or a field that has wheat mixed in with weeds, or a flock that has sheep and goats all mixed together.
All the Lord’s parables about the kingdom end up with the assurance that a day of reckoning is going to come when the kingdom is fully realized, and then it will clearly be a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.
In the first reading today Isaiah tells us why the kingdom of heaven is something else. It’s because “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” So, likewise, the gospel parable says that God’s generosity exceeds his justice. Everyone in the parable receives a reward that is just, and generous besides.
We need to remember what the parable of the laborers in the vineyard teaches. It is not about labor policy. No explanation is offered for paying the same amount of money to the worker who started at dawn and to one who started one hour before quitting time. This is a parable of the kingdom of heaven, and it teaches that eternal salvation is a gift. It is not owed to us and it is not earned by us.
God enriches whomever he wishes, and our response to such generosity is aptly worded in today’s Psalm: “Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable. The Lord is gracious and merciful …the Lord is good to all…”
All God’s Blessings,
Msgr. Maresca