25th Sun A
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
Traditionally this Sunday’s parable is named ‘The Workers in the Vineyard’ but the story really be should be named ‘The Generous Employer’ as the story revolves around his actions and the workers have their role as they are hired and as they are paid.
The Gospel follows after the story of the Rich Young Man and a discussion of the dangers of riches. That man, having faithfully followed all the commandments, came to ask Jesus what he should do to be perfect. When Jesus invited him to sell all his possessions and follow after him, the man went away sad. Jesus went on to assert the dangers of riches and the generosity that God would show to those who leave all to follow him. Seen in that light, the point of the parable becomes clear: the utter generosity of God and the danger that riches, even modest riches, pose in making us mean-hearted.
Fundamentally the story is fairly straightforward. The strange elements, i.e. the hiring of workers at 5 pm and the payment of this group first, set up the tension of the story. The payment made to each is the usual daily wage – the amount a family would need to live on. It is also the amount that the first workers agreed on. This highlights that at no point was the farmer unjust. Rather he was just and generous. His justice was according to the norms of society but his generosity was on his own terms. The first workers are rude and abrupt when they challenge the farmer yet he remains polite when he challenges back: ‘why let envy twist your heart because I chose to be generous.’
The point of this parable is to provoke us: where do our sympathies lie? About the only two groups of people who would not be disturbed by his largesse would be saints and people who, having known situations of desperate poverty, have also experienced largesse from generous-hearted people when it was least expected. Before God, we are all beggars. When we truly understand the generosity of God to us we will, in turn, be generous.