Today it is above all about God’s love and mercy. In the firs reading we hear Jonah’s complaining, because of Gods mercy. He does not like it at all and he even gets angry at God. It shows us not only who God is but also that God can handle it when we complain or even get angry at him. But we have also to be prepared for his answer and allow him to let us experience his truth. In many ways we are much like Jonah and doesn’t like it when God does not think like us: in terms of wrath and retribution. God shows Jonah that he has mercy on all his children and actually on everything that he created, inclusive the cattle.
The core of the Gospel is that God does whatever pleases him. He does not have to ask us for our permission. Try as we may, it is impossible to justify the payment of the workers in the vineyard in ordinary social terms. It could hardly be said to be fair. Yes, the owner is generous to the last comers, but why is he not generous to the others as well? It is simply that there is no reckoning up deserts when man meets God. The context of the Gospel is that Judaism in these days had become legalistic. Maybe just like much of Christianity in our days. The attitude was that salvation must be earned. A lot of commandments needed to be fulfilled (the Jews had 613). People were divided in two classes, the righteous and the outcast. This last category were despised by those who kept the law.
It was this concept of God that Jesus opposed by his emphasis on love. We can never say that we have earned our salvation. We can only stand empty handed before God, with all our shortcomings. The last workers in the vine-yard get more then they had deserved, according to their co-workers. The mistake of their envious colleagues is to think that they deserve what they got. Many times Christians are the same. They know exactly who deserves Gods Grace and who goes to heaven. People may find it difficult to understand that that someone who repents on his deathbed is going to heaven. No less than those who have struggled and suffered all their lives for what is right. But that is how the world of commercial business works, get what you deserved. But that is not how God works. Because it neglects the law of love.
The relationship we have with God is one of love. The love we give to God and our neighbor has it’s own reward. It brings its own happiness also in this life. The greater the struggle, the more a Christian turns to God and finds comfort in his love. Also, fidelity towards God through a long life is better then a quick and final conversion. The relationship of love had a to find more depth during the years and so is stronger. In that way you are better capable to receive Gods reward. The early Christians were a prime example of that relationship. While threatened with persecution they were filled with joy for Christ. They were looking forward to the ‘crown of glory’. The parable of the vineyard-workers has nothing to do with social justice or labor relationships. It illustrates Jesus’ teaching about grace and mercy. There are consequences for the church and for us individually. “The church is a place where everyone should be welcomed, loved and forgiven.
We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. We have to extend Gods love and mercy to those that we encounter, in word and deed, everyday again. So we must be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world”, in and outside the Church. In that way we are truly followers of Jesus Christ. Amen.