REFLECTION | ‘The last will be the first, the first will be the last’

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Reflection file photo by Bernard Testa/InterAksyon.

THE LAST WILL BE FIRST, THE FIRST WILL BE LAST

This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven: A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard.

He went out again, at about nine in the morning and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, “You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.”

So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer. Again he went out, at the last working hour—the eleventh—and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, “Why do you stand idle the whole day?’

They answered, “Because no one has hired us.” The master said, “Go, and work in my vineyard.”

When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.”

Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came u, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said, “These last, hardly worked an hour, yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.”

The owner said to one of them, “Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So, take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind? So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last.”
—Matthew 20:1-16

Hard work is both capacity and commitment. People’s perception of hard work varies. It all depends on how capable they are to accomplish a task or duty, and the level of committed to do what they are ought to do. Today’s parable is about all types of workers and one generous master or vineyard owner. Here, the master of the vineyard was portrayed as generous and kind.

Generosity is one virtue that people often miss and forget. Generosity is a spontaneous and free-willing act to share what one has with others. To be generous is always an invitation for all, whatever status or creed you may have; the giver shares regardless of who the recipient is. A generous person does not qualify or categorize the recipient of his or her kindness.

The gospel reading is about God’s generosity. God was so kind to give his only begotten son so that we may be saved and have life eternal. God was so kind and generous when he gave work to the people at the wayside and those who stayed idle.

In today’s gospel, we are taught to open to God’s grace of love and mercy. A generous person neither counts the cost nor expects any return for he or she gives freely and joyfully.

Generosity takes many forms. Are you generous to share your time with your family members, friends, or co-workers? Do you value the time of bonding that your family members ask from you?

Can you hold conversations with others, truly listen, and exchange thoughts and insights? That is generosity of one’s time.

Are you willing to share your giftedness and talents with others?

Do you contribute to team or group efforts? Are you happy to share your creative ideas and teach others your skills and techniques?

Do you share your treasures—your place or money, for instance—with those who are in need? Do you happily donate some funds or sponsor for some causes without expecting anything in return? Or, do you only give your “extras,” those material things that do not hold any meaning for you?

If one gives without any authentic generosity—that sense of charity, willingness, and sacrifice to give to others—then that act of giving away could be nothing more than a show. Today’s gospel teaches us that true generosity comes from the heart. To be generous is to follow God who is merciful and loving, and generous and kind.

Let us pray, reflect and ask ourselves:

Am I willing to work in the vineyard of the Lord as a priest, a religious, or a lay pastoral leader?

Do I value my present work or task which I have? Am I happy in my work?

Do I see my work as an occasion to grow as a Christian and mature in my faith in God?

Do I see my labor in my work as a fulfillment of my human creativity?

Am I appreciative to the people who helped me in my work today?

Can I work in a team or group?

Do I work because of my human satisfaction and intent service and not only for the pay?

Prayer
Almighty and Loving God, we thank you for welcoming us and accepting us to work in your vineyard where we can be part in the building of your kingdom. May we be always open, sensitive and willing to follow you always and become active and dedicated workers in your vineyard whatever state of life we may be. May your kingdom of justice, peace, joy and love reign in the hearts and homes of all men and women in the world. This we ask through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Intention
Let us pray for all those who are victims of injustices and unjust labor practice, those who are unemployed and underemployed that they may be given just and decent wages and benefits. Let us also remember our brothers and sisters who are suffering in war- torn countries and communities, especially in Marawi, that the peace of God will come upon them so that harmony and unity will reign among peoples and among nations.