With the United Auto Workers and the Screen Actors on strike nationally, and the nurses at Robert Wood Johnson New Brunswick out for quite awhile now locally, it might be tempting to hear today’s Gospel simply as another labor dispute between workers and management.
But Jesus gives parables as his main form of wisdom teaching, and so there’s always something deeper in the big picture beyond the external details of his stories.
And in this big picture, this is a teaching about the common good, inclusion, and, if anyone is favored, it’s about the preferential option for the poor. This is a parable that calls us to step up our solidarity, to help build what St. Pope John Paul II liked to call a “civilization of love.”
In the big picture of this parable, what gets in the way is not who gets paid what, but deeper issues, like only caring about yourself, instigating phony divisions between “us” and “them,” and being unconcerned about the less fortunate.
What gets in the way is a kind of thinking that we’ve enshrined to almost-religious level, even though there’s nothing religious about it. A thinking that is obsessed with “this belongs to me.” And, “I got here first.”
By a nice coincidence, this weekend we Catholics commemorate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and again in the bigger picture, this parable is as much about migration as it is a petty dispute between workers and a vineyard owner. How many people feel that arriving in a country first, even if their family arrived in the same desperate conditions as newer arrivals, gives them the right to judge who should stay or go?
So today’s an opportunity, disguised in a story about complaining workers to a generous boss, an opportunity for us to stretch out our thinking, our sense of possibilities, and to think more and more as we believe that God does here.