Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

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Daniel Madden, O.S.A.
St. Augustine Friary
Chicago, Illinois

Readings
Isa 55:6-9
Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Phil 1:20-24, 27
Mt 20:1-16

Why do we work?

This parable provokes meditation on work and what we expect to get out of work.

First, the person’s work (and therefore money earned) does not determine the person’s value. This may be one of the sources of envy for the first laborers. The workers who worked the most felt they should have made the most money, which would have increased their value in their own eyes and the eyes of others. But God, who is the landowner in this parable, sees each person in a different way. He does not see their value by how much they earn or work, but by the fact that they are human beings.

This Gospel reminds us that it is not the work and money earned that gives the person dignity. Rather, the work has dignity because the person doing the work has dignity, from the day laborers to the CEOs.

Secondly, such laborious work, as found in the vineyard, is good. John Paul II writes in Laborem Exercens that Jesus, as a carpenter, “belongs to the ‘working world’, he has appreciation and respect for human work. It can indeed be said that he looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father” (26).

When we work we reflect something of God, who worked as Christ the laborer, which means that work is fulfilling in and of itself. It is part of who God is. When we work, we share in the activity of the Creator. There is meaning, therefore, in even the most tiring and labor intensive jobs, for it is the kind of work Christ engaged in.

Finally, in a spiritual sense, this parable also reminds us that work in the Lord’s vineyard participates in God’s kingdom. Thus, there should be no complaining that some do less for God’s kingdom (as it may be revealed in the afterlife) for to work with God is good. It’s a call to stay and work and bring forth good fruit. We don’t do it for reward, anyway, because it is good in itself.

This parable challenges us to constantly reorient our focus of work, both in the world and in the kingdom of God, which often intersect, to see it as good and worthwhile, rather than a source of self-importance and division.