A Labor of Love

Latin Mass: Septuagesima Sunday
Beloved in Christ Jesus,[i]  today we are presented with this interesting Gospel, about the workers who came late to work, yet were paid the same as those who worked all day. Our Lord knew of course, that this would rankle the hearer; this payment method would not produce very good morale at a company – but Our Lord has something else in mind rather than business policy.
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Here is what St Gregory the Great says about this passage:
The morning of that workday represents the early beginning of the world, and so it represents the time from Adam up to Noah. The vineyard is God’s kingdom on earth, and the promised payment of one denarius represents salvation.
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God’s covenant with Adam, was the agreed-upon wage; Adam could not say that he did not know the reward which was promised. But the rest who came later – they had no contract with God and no covenant.
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The third hour of the day, is the period from Noah up to Abraham, the sixth hour, is from Abraham up to Moses, and the ninth hour is from Moses to the coming of Christ. So the workers at the third, sixth, and ninth hours represent the ancient Jewish people, chosen in the beginning, who served the Lord in his vineyard.
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But at the eleventh hour the Gentiles are called. Now these Gentiles for so many ages of the world did not labor for the Lord, they stood by idle. But notice what they say to the Master: ‘No one has hired us.  And it is true: neither the Patriarchs, nor Abraham, nor Noah, nor the prophets had ever come to the Gentiles to invite them. The Gentiles say: ‘No one has preached to us this way of life.; but finally the Gentiles are sent also, into the vineyard.
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When the time of payment comes, this is the end of the world. And so the Lord said to the steward – that is, to the Holy Spirit, ‘Call the laborers, and give them their wage. And so those who were called at the beginning of the world receive the same reward as those who came late. Thus says, St. Gregory the Great.
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It is certain that Jesus, in telling this parable, has in mind the Gentiles, who came later than the Jews to the Covenant. But it must also be true, that Christ has in mind something else. Our Lord is speaking of the calling given by God to each of us individually,[ii] pressing us, to labor during this life for his kingdom.
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The morning is our childhood, the 3rd hour is our youth, the sixth hour is adulthood, the eleventh hour is old age. The Lord calls his laborers at all these various hours, and they should agree to work for him, because the wage, is salvation.
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Some are baptized into the Faith as infants; these are those called in the morning, and they must not put off laboring for the Lord in his vineyard – who knows it they will even be alive at the 11th hour?
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They that are called at the 3rd hour may be dead at the 6th.  On the other hand, in his mercy, God calls some late in life; but if we should die at midday, that last call will not help us. Besides, God has not promised us a 2nd call if we excuse ourselves from the first.
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Today in the old calendar, we begin this period of Septuagesima. If the time of Lent is a house, then Septuagesima is the porch. These weeks are the entry to Lent, a time to begin to think, and ask ourselves: ‘How have I been laboring for the Lord in his vineyard?’
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We have been so blessed, to be among the Gentiles called by Christ. And we have been blessed to be in the Lord’s Catholic Church. But have we been going to work in his vineyard?
We need the Lord’s help to build his Kingdom – laboring in our own souls for holiness – laboring also in the world for souls.
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And if we need the Lord’s help, we should also ask Mary’s help – a lady was near death and surrounded by a family of non-practicing children who saw no use for a priest. But the priest asked to speak to her alone, and they gladly left the room. As he spoke to her of the Lord and his mercy, she seemed uneasy, and her long distance from Christ made her feel despair. But then the priest mentioned that Mary was praying for her, and no sooner did he say ‘Mary,’ that did her face light up, and she blurted out ‘I love her!’ Well from there, the rest was easy, and she was reconciled to Christ.
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Mary, you lead us to Jesus, even if we come late; help us not to put off his call to work daily, in his vineyard.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Joseph]

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[i] See Catena, Matthew 20:1-16

[ii] Gueranger, The Liturgical Year, Vol 4, p. 125.

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