During the initial days of the lockdown, I would walk the 5 km from work to home as a form of prayer. Shops and cafes were all shuttered, roads quiet. I needed my prayer to take a physical form, to be doing a sacrifice by discomforting myself. One day the sight of the long line of motorcycle taxis with their drivers standing idly by jolted my spiritual consciousness. Would not my prayer be more effective if I rode home in comfort which will provide for the driver to be employed?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways”. (Today’s First Reading)
I have always worked a long time with my employers. I fill myself with envy every time I see a new hire coming in with higher wages and better benefits. Loyalty doesn’t pay. But the thoughts of this world can throw us spiritually off-guard. The one denarius in today’s Gospel buys us a new way in which we must think.
“They took it but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?”
A wife worked 25 years on their spiritual lives before seeing her husband baptized. A father toiled 30 years by example before his son re-embraced the faith and return to Church. A person who seem not to have don’t anything kind and right in life ask to be baptized on his death bed stealing the glory of heaven with his last breath. In the ways and thoughts of God, there is no envy, only true love.
The landowner goes out every hour to hire workers for his vineyard. This is the love of God that constantly searches for us even till the eleventh hour. The ways and thoughts of this world will always cause us to stumble in our spiritual lives. “Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” The way of God always gives us the opportunities to return to him despite our numerous stumbles. In this sense, we are always employable in today’s Gospel context, the one denarius always available to any one of us.
Being “always employable” allows us the opportunities to encounter the ways and thoughts of God. His ways generous, ours envious. In life, as long as we are alive, God does not judge or condemn us, unlike how we judge one another. Like the idle taxi drivers waiting to be gainfully employed, we spiritually stand in the courtyard of today’s Gospel waiting for God the landowner to employ us. When we make ourselves available at daybreak, we are prepared to be like St Paul, spiritually conscious, intentionally working in the vineyard, in the fields of mission to make God’s way known.
“I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake. Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Second Reading)
Sometimes it is not always about being discomforted. As you complete your ride in the airconditioned comfort of a taxi, you add on an extra above the metered fare. A few baht, not much out of your pocket. But to the driver, he just encountered the mercy of God through your action. So we must remain employed.
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time