With the length of today’s Gospel, it can be easy to lose sight of its immense beauty. Jesus often teaches and preaches in parables, using familiar imagery to explain complex ideas to the people of the time. In the Gospel scripture passage today, Jesus presents a parable of a landowner who goes into the town three different times throughout the day to hire labourers for his field. The first group he gathers early in the morning and they agree to a day’s wage. The second and third group of labourers are called and are promised "whatever is right."
At the end of the long day working in the field, the time comes for each group of labourers to be paid “what is right”. The third group hired is paid first, and they receive a day’s pay. The second group of workers are paid next, and they too are given a day’s pay. When the first group of workers come to get their pay, they are expecting a higher amount because they of course have worked the longest. However, they have forgotten that, at the beginning of the day, they had agreed to a day’s wage. So they, too, are paid the same as the others.
It is a common belief that the people who were called in the early morning are those who are ‘faithful and very religious’, (the Pharisees and the scribes), and those who are hired at the later times during the day are the ‘sinners’ and those who are converts to the faith. Thinking of each of the groups of labourers, with the different kinds of people, can help us to see that Jesus is trying to convey the message of the abundant generosity that God offers to sinners.
Jesus identified himself with the marginalized in his society many times. For example, he cured the blind and the lepers, made the deaf hear, and healed those with unclean spirits. In replying to the treatment of the marginalized, Jesus said, " Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers [people], that you do unto me." Jesus goes so far as to ‘work’ on the Sabbath (which was a great sin according to the law). But Jesus doesn’t follow the letter of the law; he follows the spirit of the law, and he helps those who are not only burdened by their sickness but also by the rejection of society.
Jesus’ whole ministry was rooted in compassion and sharing God’s generosity, love and mercy. Jesus was never ashamed or rejected this identification - he embraced it. His association with the poor and marginalized created a lot of difficulty for Jesus and his disciples with the Jewish authorities. This parable gave the disciples a foundation to defend Jesus and those with whom he associated.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul is torn: to die and live with Christ... or to live and serve people. He is not sure which he prefers. He says that, “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you”. St. Paul had dedicated his life to preaching the message of Jesus Christ, and he encourages us to “ live [our] life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. St. Paul simply means for us to live the same message of love that Christ came to reveal to the world. Live a life of generosity, prayer and compassion. Identify yourself with the poor and marginalized. Help those who need your help. Do not build limitations and barriers between you and the suffering, instead, build a bridge so that those who are excluded may become included.