O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
the end of our searching,
help us to lay aside
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom,
and to give all that we have
to gain the pearl beyond all price,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord;
how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not denied the request of his lips.
For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness
and set a crown of pure gold upon his head.
He asked of you life and you gave it him,
length of days, for ever and ever.
His honour is great because of your salvation;
glory and majesty have you laid upon him.
You have granted him everlasting felicity
and will make him glad with joy in your presence.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For 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 market-place; 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 landowner said: Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?
Even though we may not have great wealth, many of us can understand these words. What we have has often been earned as a result of hard toil and some degree of self-sacrifice. As we grow older we amass money and possessions. We come to the point of seeing that money and those possessions as being ours to dispose of as we wish, and with no thought for the sensibilities and needs of others. The greater our worldly wealth the poorer we become in the spirit of generosity and love. The meanness that comes with the growth of wealth is not just a failing of the individual, it is also the way in which much business is conducted … including the business of the Church.
In today’s reading we hear of a wealthy and generous landowner. Wealthy because he seems to have an unlimited need for people to work in his fields. Generous because of his willingness to pay all his employees the same wage. However, his wealth and his generosity are turned into causes for complaint and criticism because of the greed of those from whom he might expect the higher level of respect and gratitude.
The landowner in Jesus’ parable can be seen as representing God, of course. Those whom he employs to work in his vineyard are the faithful ones who have responded to God’s call in their lives. For some, the response to God’s call comes instantaneously and without any moment of hesitation or uncertainty. Such people are presented to us as those who worked in the vineyard for the whole day. For others, the response to God’s call is slower and comes later in life. These people are represented by those who join the landowner’s workforce at later times in the day. Wherever anyone might be on that gradual and evolving timescale, the reward for faithful discipleship remains the same. The wages of the labourer in God’s vineyard is eternal life. There is no bonus that can be added to such a generous salary!
But … then comes the human response to God’s generosity. We want more. No matter how great the reward we find ways of justifying our demand for something bigger and better. In effect, despite a life of faithful discipleship, we can so often find ourselves distanced from God because we are tempted into the pride and greed that form the gulf between our heavenly Father and humanity.
Let us pray that we might follow God’s call in humility and generosity of spirit. Let us pray that we might rejoice as we see others join the company of the faithful. Let us pray that we might not succumb to those sinful attitudes which undermine our capacity to shine as beacons of Christian love and joy in this world.
Prayers of intercession
For the mercy and the justice of the Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord.
Give to all Christian people the grace to be faithful labourers in your service. Desiring no reward but the knowledge of doing your will, may the whole Church be diligent in working for peace on earth and for the coming of the Kingdom.
May there be justice wherever people deal with one another as employers or employed. Bring harmony and mutual trust into all labour relations, so that goodwill shall prevail and the common good be accomplished.
Keep us cheerful in our daily tasks, honourable in duty and with regard for those with whom we work. May all who work in this community be recognised and respected for what they do.
Strengthen and relieve those who labour long and hard, who work in bad conditions or for low wages. Pardon those who exploit their workers, and turn their hearts. Have mercy on all who have been long without work, and grant them the opportunities they desire.
We give thanks for those who have come to the end of their toil and entered into rest. May we at last be called with them to the life where all are equal in joy and receive their reward in the nearer presence of God.
We pray in the name of Christ, the loving master of all who labour.
Prayer for the week
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.