Let me give you the background to the story that Jesus tells. [To read the words of today’s gospel, click here.] It is the time of the grape harvest, just before the rains come. The longer the grapes stay on the vine the sweeter the grapes will be. But if the rains come and the grapes have not been harvested, then the grapes are ruined. So the farmer knows that the time is coming very quickly. He wants to get his grapes in before the rain comes.
Now, look at the workers. It’s important to know that they did not have a regular salary. If they worked, they were paid for the work they did that one day. If they worked that day, they would get paid, and their families could eat the next day. If they did not have any work that day, their families would be hungry the next day. So getting enough regular work every day was very important. Their life was hard.
So, the farmer knows that the rains are coming soon. He needs to harvest his grapes. He goes out early in the morning, maybe six o’clock, and hires people to come and work. Later he sees the rain is closer now; he needs more workers. He goes out at nine o’clock, hires them and agrees to pay them a fair wage. The workers know that he will pay them something, but not a full day’s pay; but they will earn enough money to feed their families. As the day goes on, the owner needs more workers; so he goes out at 12 o’clock and later at 3 o’clock and agrees to pay the workers what is fair. They know it is not a full day’s pay but at least it is something. So they are willing to work; they are grateful for having any work, and they go and work in the vineyard. The owner sees that the rain is coming soon; he needs more workers, so he goes out at five o’clock and looks for more workers. He sees other workers and complains, “Why are you standing around here? You are not doing anything all day.” And the men say, “No one has hired us to do any work today.” And the farmer says, “You come and work in my vineyard today, just for an hour. I will pay you what is fair.” The men know they are not going to get much pay, but maybe they can buy a little food for their children. Then at the end of the day at 6 o’clock after a successful harvest the owner starts paying them their wages. He tells his manager to pay the men, beginning with the last group. They come; they are expecting a little. He pays them a full day’s wage! Wow, are they excited; they are thrilled because now they will be able to buy enough food for their families; the families can eat the next day. They are very grateful that the owner is so generous; he is willing to pay them a full day’s pay. Maybe the owner knows their families, knows the difficulties they have. The owner is grateful for their work. And they are very grateful to him because of his generosity.
The point of the story is this: We need always to have a spirit of gratitude. We need an attitude of gratitude. There is so much good in our lives. Yes, your life and my life have challenges, difficulties; it is not always easy. Yes. But at the same time there is much good in our life. God is like the owner in the story. God is good to us. We need to thank God for His goodness. For example: Your health is generally good. You have enough money to buy food. Maybe you are not rich, but you know you have enough. You have a place to go that you call home; you can go there. You know that there are so many people in the world who do not have enough to eat, do not have a nice place to live; so many people are homeless. Remember to thank God for all the good that you have.
Back to the story: The owner pays the people who worked only part of the day, pays them a full day’s wage. They are very excited and very happy that the owner is willing to give them a full day’s pay; now they can support their families properly.
Finally, the last group comes, the workers who started at six o’clock in the morning; they worked almost 12 hours, and he pays them exactly the same amount, a day’s wage. Their attitude? They complain. They think he should pay them more. But the owner says he’s paying them a fair wage as they agreed. Their attitude should be, “We are getting enough to feed our families. The other men worked and thought they would get less money. Now they have enough to feed their families. We should be happy for their good luck, that they have enough to support their family. We should be happy too, that they have enough to support their families. The families in our village will not be hungry, because all of us received enough money today.”
That should be our attitude too. We should be happy that other people are successful, but sometimes we are jealous of other people. We think they have more than we do. And we are jealous or sad because they seem to be doing better than we are. This is wrong. Look at your own lives. Thank God for all the good that you have in your life. Each of you has much good in your life: you have family and friends, people who care about you and love you, people who want to be with you. So many people are lonely, sick, troubled, mentally ill. You are not. God has blessed you. Is your life perfect? No. Are there problems? Yes, we all have problems. But you and I have a good life. Thank God always.
Now that we see all the good in our lives and thank God, what do we do? We need to help other people have a good life too. We can help in a little ways, not always in great ways but always in a little ways.
Let me end with a story: There were families out on the beach enjoying a nice day. An old lady was coming closer. Her hair was a bit of a mess and her clothes were old. She was bending down and picking up something from the beach and putting it into her bag. And as she came closer, the parents were wondering about her; they were a little afraid of her; they told their children to come closer. As she walked by them, she smiled at them, but they did not smile back. When she had gone, they asked someone nearby, “Do you know who that woman is?” And someone told them, “That is old Mary; she has been here a long time. She walks on the beach in the morning and in the evening. She is picking up bits of glass, sharp stones, sharp shells. She wants to keep the children from cutting themselves on any sharp pieces of glass. She’s a dear old soul. She’s been here many years doing that. We are very grateful for her efforts to keep all of us safe, to keep our children safe and healthy.”
All of us can make a little contribution to help other people; it may not seem to be much, and yet it is helping other people to have good lives, so that they can thank God and know all the good in their lives.