In the current global pandemic, there are a great many of our people out there who will do anything to secure a job. Job market has understandably and sadly gone under. As I read and reflect on this weekend’s gospel, I’m reminded of an uncle of mine who left home quiet early in his life to live in Nairobi having completed apprenticeship as a painter in the village. Along the fence and inside Uhuru park, there subtly congregate daily, a number of Kenyan people looking for job opportunities in different fields. Potential employers or their agents will come by during the day to interview these men and women and take with them potential employees. My uncle having no connections in Nairobi, he’d rock up at Uhuru park every morning with a paintbrush in his hand dressed in his painting gown. The hope was always for some building or maintenance contractor to pick him for the day or for however long.
I’m talking of days before mobile phones and internet. The challenge in that case was, if my uncle had been picked for more than a day’s work, we did not know and so remained hopeful that he was safe. The joy on my grandma’s face upon my uncle’s return after a few days away was something to behold. There used to be feel of a lost child returning home. I think she got used to it after a while. Without discounting its many challenges, let’s be grateful for technology; internet, tele/mobile phones and the ever-growing social media platforms of 2020. Thank heavens for industrial unions that provide good checks and balances between employers and employees.
It is somewhat consoling to know that in Jesus’ time, job and employment arrangements weren’t any different. Those looking for work will congregate in a place and employers would come looking for them. The question we must ask ourselves is why Jesus tells this parable; to His apostles and us. Key to the message of Jesus in this gospel are the different times that the land owner sends workers into his vineyard and the wage each of them receives at the end of the day. Don’t even mind the grumbling of some of them. The words and actions of the land owner should be the focus as we are told by Jesus, that is how our Heavenly Father is like.
From the day of our baptism or at least from the time we started to understand the purpose of our Christian faith, our goal is to work for a place in the kingdom of God. That is the promise Jesus gives those who follow Him; and that too is the will of Him who sent Him: that He should not lose any of those that He has been given. In baptism, we are given to Jesus. As we are aware, some of us start that journey as infants with the help of families and friends and some of us discover that path ourselves and seek to live out Christian life/faith on our own accord; but in God’s timing. On the day of reckoning, the Good Lord will not be looking at ‘how long’ but how best we opened our hearts to His calling and if we actually let Him be the master of our lives.
In Jesus’ time, His Jewish people took it for granted that because they had received the faith before the gentiles or rather pagan nations, they would in fact be first in the kingdom of God. As such, Jews undermined the gentiles even in their effort to live out the gospel values that Jesus was preaching to them. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus speaks to the ‘proud Jews’ who have abandoned their faith or practice it with ulterior motives – bigger reward or as a show off. You may have heard someone tell you or say; I have been a Catholic for so many years or I have been a member of this parish for so many years. Sadly, when you examine their lifestyle and behavior in light of the gospel, they fail terribly! They are the first to criticize Church teachings, they are ready to discriminate on basis of gender, color or age; they don’t shy away from gossiping, they will not participate in community activities/events or will not do so wholeheartedly if they did and will not provide good example to newer members of the parish or Church community.
On the other hand, we have new members in our parish community and recently baptised Christians who give everything they have and are to their faith. Though they have not been Catholics all their lives, they speak and act with such maturity of faith that is encouraging for all those around them. Such men and women can have no trouble realizing the promise of Jesus that we all receive in the Word of God and in the Sacraments of the Church; namely, eternal life in the kingdom of God. In light of today’s gospel, I invite us to ask for the grace of knowing how best we can be witnesses of Jesus and work in His vineyard without expecting bigger reward in the end than our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith; regardless of how much or how long/short they’ve been with us. Let us focus on the gift the Lord is promising us, eternal life. More importantly, let us know that God loves us for who we are and not for what we do for Him. All He asks of us is a generous open heart. As we sing: Come as you are, that’s how I love you…
Fr Cyprian Shikokoti, Parish Priest