The Owner of the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) and the Prodigal Father (Luke 15:11-32)
Today, we hear the Word of God through the Prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts (Isaiah 55:6-9).
These words could not be made more clear in Jesus' (in)famous parable of the Owner of the Vineyard from chapter 20 of Matthew’s Gospel.
I am not a scripture scholar, though it is my duty and passion to ponder the Word of God, breaking it open, and sharing the fruits of prayerful reflection with all who hear my homilies, read my blog or attend my presentations. With that being said, I do not believe I have ever heard or read anywhere that would connect the two characters in these two parables: the owner of the vineyard and the father of the two lost sons.
The first parable is from Matthew’s gospel and his audience was primarily Jewish and/or a Jewish converts to Christianity. When they heard the parable, they no doubt found themselves as the laborers who had been there since dawn enduring the heat of the day. Then the Gentiles who now are gifted with the promise of Abraham seem to have gotten away with something. It just doesn’t seem fair that someone who labors for one hour should receive the same as the one who labored for 12 hours.
The parable of the Father with two sons is from Luke’s chapter about the good shepherd. Luke’s audience was primarily Gentile converts and Greek Christians who are learning the art of healing and reconciliation as exemplified by the life of Jesus.
What I propose is that the two men are related. Whether or not they were brothers or cousins is beside the point; the two men are living the life of the kingdom. The owner of the vineyard is the great equalizer. He seeks to bring in all who are lost or forsaken. Note that the owner of the vineyard makes five different trips to the marketplace in search of laborers for his vineyard.
The Father of the Prodigal Son, we will recall, also went out each day to look for his son. And then he breaks with tradition and all proper decorum and runs to his youngest son, welcoming him home – even thought this son had regarded his father as dead when he asked for his share of the estate “that should come to me” once his father was dead.
These generous forgivers are to be our example of how we should live our lives. These are not mere nice stories to pass down in a lovely liturgy, but are hard core realities that must be lived once we hear the word, “Go in the peace of Christ” or “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” How else are we to love the Lord but by loving our neighbors, no matter whether we like them or if they deserve it or even receive it. It is our call to be Christ-like, who loved us while we were yet sinners.
All we have been given is gift; materially and spiritually, all is gift. Let us then gift one another in the same manner as the Lord has, for, He is, after all, the Owner of the Vineyard.
May the Lord grant us the grace to hear this message; then may we have the courage to live it.