My latest Lectio Divina(Philippians 2:5) took me to a place I had not visited before. Have you ever had a particularly complex dream in your sleep, then awoke with the strange feeling that everything you thought tooks hours, lasted only a few seconds? It happened to me this morning at 2:00 a.m.. I thought of how my life is nearly complete and how I hope to enjoy my Lord’s joy. Why, I have no idea, but I was caught up with the “only the saved” go to Heaven syndrome. What is important is not that the saved with be with God in Heaven, that is true. What I found happening to me was I was the one who was judging others about their lives and loves and who should be with God. This is a subtle form of idolatry that seduces the Faith side of my life and does not allow God to be the one who is. More specifically, I asked the question, “I should receive more than those who just repented of their sins before death.” Still more specifically, “If I am faithful to what I consider the teachings of Christ are and try my best to love others as Christ loved us since I was a boy, am I not better than those who have spent their whole lives in hatred and greed? God is not fair.”
The Scriptures are a series of stories and similes that help us to just crack open the profound meanings of our human nature. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is such a story with an important lesson to keep us from betraying Christ as our center.
In the Scripture reading below, I want you to read it three times. The first time, read it in silence. Take ten minutes to think of the lesson Christ wants to tell us about our tendency to be the landowner instead of one of the laborers.
The second time, read it aloud. Take another ten minutes to think about the vineyard as Heaven and you have received what is promised to you by God. Write down five words that describe what you are feeling about someone who has found Christ for just a second compared to you, who have borne the temptations and failures of original sin. Is this fair? The third time, read it with the attitude of the landowner. Take some time to reflect on how we can make ourselves into God if we are not careful.
The Workers in the Vineyard.*1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.2After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.3Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,4* and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’5So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.6Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’8*a When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’9When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.10So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.11And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,12saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’13He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.* Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14* Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’16* Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” https://bible.usccb.org/bible/matthew/20