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September 20, 1996     The Message
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September 20, 1996

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1996 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 9 -- commentary-- Laborers in the vineyard: Promises and generosity Gospel Commentary for September 22, 1996: Twenty. Fifth Sunday: Ordinary Time: Cycle A.. Matthew 20:1.16 In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard an employer goes to a place where day-laborers gather to await an opportunity for employment. He hires some labor- ers at 9 a.m. Needing more work- ers he returns and hires again at noon, at 3 p.m. and at 5 p.m. The workday is over at 6 p,m. Accord- ing to Jewish law laborers are to be paid before sundown. The employer had agreed with the earliest hired work- ers on one denarius per day a normal day's wage. To those hired later he said he would pay them "whatever is: right." As all line up to be paid, no distinction is made between those who worked all day and those hired later. All receive one denarius. The earliest hired complains about the obvious unfairness. The employer replies that they had agreed on one denarius. It was his generosity that caused him to pay one denarius even to those working only one hour. The context into which Matthew puts this parable may tell us its meaning. It follows a saying of Jesus that "many that are first will be last, and the last first." Then Matthew adds to the parable this statement: "So the last will be first and the first last." Within the parable those hired last are paid first while those hired first are paid last. But does this solve anything? The parable does not seem to illustrate the reversal of fortune Matthew By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST intended to illustrate for his imme- diate Christian audience who may have been persecuted or deprived of social status within the larger civic society. Perhaps a look at Matthew's wider context may help. Preceding the parable, Peter reminded Jesus that they had left everything to follow him. What, he asks, will be their reward? Jesus promises not only a share in his glory at the end of time but also a share in his role as judge of the twelve tribes of Israel. Following the parable Matthew places Jesus' third reference to his betrayal, con- demnation, suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection. Perhaps Matthew's intention is something like this. Despite having left all to follow Jesus, the reward promised is beyond earning. It is a matter of God's loving generosity. Before they or Jesus himself can enjoy the promised generosity, the cross has to be undergone. This parable does not seem to be the best illus- tration of what Matthew tries to teach his readers. It seems rather to have had a life of its own and is a bit of a misfit in the context into which Matthew puts it. Long before Matthew took hold of this parable it must have had other uses. If Jesus is the source of the parable, the key to its interpretation would be in the phrase, "Do you begrudge my gen- erosity?" He would have been addressing his crit- ics. They were harassing him for associating with and being so concerned about the poor, the sinners, the outcasts of society. Jesus appeals to them to see themselves in the first hired. They should not be critical or envious when God through Jesus extends his concern and love toward the despised and outcasts. The Good News is that the Father loves all and has a special love for those who have no standing in society. A parable usually had various lives, i.e. how did Jesus use it, how did the teachers of the Church use it after Jesus, and how did a gospel author use it? We have seen possibilities of the use of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard by Jesus and by Matthew. How could the catechists or teachers of the Church have used it? This parable seems especially appropriate to speak to the pi'ob- lem of the acceptance of Gentiles into a Jewish- Christian Church such as Matthew's seems to have been. This was a problem which took decades to solve. The parable states the obvious and claims it as Jesus own solution. Gentiles are to be received equal to Jews. It is God's generosity that permits this. Finally the parable has a fourth life, when it is applied to ourselves. It is a warning against envy toward those who seem more fortunate, a warning against excluding people because of race, origin, or even as "sinners." It warns also against the arro- gance of power that, because of being "firsC in the vineyard, demands more for oneself than is given to other laborers in the vineyard. This can apply to any community whether in the Church or in soci- ety as a whole. Jesus did promise a one hundred percent return but only to those who have left everything and the promise is not for here but for hereafter. Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20c.24, 27a. WING HEADQUARTERS RANEY'S SHOE STORE 320 E. Main. Washington Call The Experts With Over 80 Years. Of Experience! 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Excavating & Trucking Backhoe -Dozing -Trenching -Stone ,,Gravel .Asphalt ,Complete Septic System & Water & Sewer Lines .Residential arid Commercial Our 768"6450 00rry e, 768-68o8 FAX 812-768-5518 Mark at 867-7789 S!r.. 1946 tcd " ' R R #1 (2 miles W on 68) Haubstadt Tom at 768 5009 Radio Olspa .... . " DEWIG BROS. PACKING CO. FRESH MEAT BEEF AND PORK ..... HAUBSTADT, INDIANA Golden Jubilarians Aloysius "Ollie" and Adeline (Kluesner) Fleck of Jasper will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a Maim of Thanksgiving at 9 a.m. Sept. 22 at St. Joseph Churcht Jasper. An Open House will be held from I to 4 p.m. at the K of C in Jasper. The couple requests no gifts. They were married Sept. 24, 1946, at St. Peter Celestine Church, Celestine, by Father A.C. Schnellenberger. They are the parents of 11 chil. dren: Bill of Vincennes, Karen of Evansville, Charles of Celestine, Glen, Roger and Kurt, all of Jasper, Sara Hopf and Mary Sue Boeglin of JMper. Their daughter, Sharon, and their sons, Patrick and Jerry, are deceased. Mr. Fleck retired from JOFCO after 33 years; Mrs Fleck is a house-