23 August
Mt 20:1-16

"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard.'
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, 'Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.'  But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

The verse immediately preceding this reading says, “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”  The same verse occurs at the end of the story, framing it neatly.  This story then illustrates the principle in practice. 

Rabbis told a story about a landowner who paid a man as much for two hours’ work as he paid others for a full day’s work.  But this was because the man had done as much work in two hours as the others had done in a whole day.  The story is only superficially like Jesus' parable: theirs is a story about merit, not about grace.  In Jesus’ parable, the late arrivals didn’t deserve as much as the others, but by the generosity of the landowner they received as much.  The landowner would know that a man could not support his family on the pay for one or two hours’ work, so he paid him a ‘family wage’.  In other words, he didn’t see the workers as just ‘hands’, he saw them as full human beings.  

Those who had worked all day were “envious”.  An older and more literal translation had, “Is your eye evil because I am good?”  They had an evil eye.  When they looked they were blind to the generosity of the landowner because it was others who were benefiting by it, and not they themselves.  This is how the ego sees: it is the original evil eye.  When the ego prays it says, “Give me this day my daily bread, and don’t worry about the others.” 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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