In the Gospel workers brought into the vineyard at the last hour were given the same wage as those who bore the heat for twelve hours. I have heard that Sunday Gospel seventy-five times, always hearing it explained to mean that that God offers to converts who come into the Church in their final moments the same heavenly reward he gives to those of us who have been Catholic for the better part of a century.
Maybe that’s all the parable means, but I, for one, am tired of hearing the same thing over and over. Let’s look for what other lesson Jesus could mean for us to take from his story.
I have been reading up on the saints who lived at the time of the Reformation. The bio of St. Phillip Neri made the point that his mother belonged to the nobility. The bio of St. Francis Borgia began by saying he was descended from Ferdinand and Isabella. Francis Xavier’s story begins with telling us he was born in the family castle. Even with the poorest saints, their bios point out that they were of noble ancestry.
Our standing in this world means a lot to us. My father savored the fact that his daughters had married into good families. He spoke of how their husbands were college men, except for the one whose abilities made him a captain in an exclusive branch of the military.
As a family we were stuck-up and proud of it. Our Lord’s parable might be telling us not to count out the good-hearted kids from the other side of the tracks. Maybe they couldn’t make it through high school; but with God they might outrank us snobs. Maybe today’s parable is telling us, ”Look out, the last may be first.”