Our natural reaction to today’s parable is that those who worked the longest, should have received the most pay. But this isn’t about justice, its about God’s call & our response. Historically it explains why the Gentiles were entering the kingdom and experiencing forgiveness & grace (the latecomers) as well as the Jewish people who had stayed faithful to the covenant for centuries (the early morning workers). What is important is not how long they worked but that they answered the call when it came.
The parable can of course be applied to ourselves; people are called to Christ at different times in their lives. Baptism as babies (mornings) , others experience a call in their teenage years (mid morning), adults would be mid afternoon, senior citizens would be the evenings. God calls people at any hour of their life.
Everyone in the parable was paid the same because they answered the call, no one was compared with the other. The same is true of us, God does not compare, we all have a unique combination of talents, challenges & opportunities in life. “Each of us has a story of our life that is our own; & each of us has a story of our soul that is our own” (Pope John Paul II) When we answer God’s call, we should do it as best we can & not look at the person next to us to see how they answer the call.
Finally, each time of our lives, be it morning, noon time or late afternoon, brings a special strength to our work in God’s vineyard. When we are young, we bring enthusiasm, inquiry, imagination & energy. As we grow older it’s a reappraisal, we refocus & stabilise, bringing judgment, maturity & focus. In our senior years we bring wisdom & tolerance. As we get older, friendships become more important, it’s a time of candour, honesty & contemplation as we gather together the experiences of a lifetime and appreciate God’s grace & goodness.
This parable is not just about Jew & Gentile, or different times when people find God, nor the uniqueness of the call. It is also about the seasons of life & whatever our age, we all bring strengths & gifts.
At each hour of the day & at each season of our life, God is calling with a place for us & work for us in his vineyard.