Aug 23 – Memorial for St. Rose of Lima, virgin
A beautiful girl and devoted daughter, Rose (1586-1617) was so devoted to her vow of chastity, she used pepper and lye to ruin her complexion so she would not be attractive. She lived and meditated in a garden, raising vegetables and making embroidered items to sell to support her family and help the other poor. She was the founder of social work in Peru.
“Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”
– from the writings of St. Rose of Lima
All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-millo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.
News of this was brought to Jotham. He came and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted aloud for them to hear:
‘Hear me, leaders of Shechem, that God may also hear you!
‘One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”
‘The olive tree answered them, “Must I forego my oil which gives honour to gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”
‘Then the trees said to the fig tree, “Come now, you be our king!”
‘The fig tree answered them, “Must I forego my sweetness, forego my excellent fruit, to stand swaying above the trees?”
‘Then the trees said to the vine, “Come now, you be our king!”
‘The vine answered them, “Must I forego my wine which cheers the heart of gods and men, to stand swaying above the trees?”
‘Then all the trees said to the thorn bush, “Come now, you be our king!”
‘And the thorn bush answered the trees, “If in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you, then come and shelter in my shade. If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’
Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’
Are you envious because I am generous?
The parable of the workers is a sobering reminder that God’s grace bestowed to each and every one of us does not conform to social norms.
We have been brought up to believe that effort equates rewards. From the time when our parents drilled into our heads that if we didn’t study and make the grade, we would not secure good jobs, to our adult lives where our pay scale or bonus is in line with how much effort we put into our jobs. We impress this upon ourselves, our children, our peers; it has become such a ‘way of life’ that we try to impress it upon God and how we think that God should reward us. But God does not work that way.
It is by the grace of God that we are saved. It is by the grace of God that we have our gifts and blessings. What is grace indeed? Grace is defined as ‘unmerited favour’ — we do not deserve it, yet we receive it. Why is that? Because God is compassionate and loving.
We are all called to do God’s work at some point in our lives, based on His timing. Some of us may have had that calling from very early on, some of us much later in life. Some of us accept God at birth by baptism, some of us embrace God in our adult lives. Yet ALL of us are dealt equally with by God in that we are all given the grace of salvation through Christ Jesus, no matter our standing in human life. We all have the opportunity to reap our reward in heaven as God promised, no matter when we were called to discipleship, or how long or hard we have been serving God. If God deems our hearts as worthy and sincere as the first disciples, then as the parable shows, it is up to Him to determine if we deserve the same reward.
The parable also notes that the first workers had agreed a wage with the landowner, but the last group just agreed to work with no mention of wages. There is an element of trust there that the last group of workers have placed on the landowner, in that they would be paid accordingly, as the landowner saw fit. It is perhaps this element of trust that caused the landowner to say “pay the last group of workers first”.
It is not our place to negotiate a deal with God for the work that we do for Him here on earth — that price has already been paid through the blood of Christ. We cannot enforce our human belief of equality on God. At the end of the day, the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak – we all have the same chance of redeeming ourselves for heaven. And we trust that God will reward us accordingly for our efforts and for our sincerity.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray let the work of our hands be for You and for Heaven alone, that we may trust in You to bring us home.
Thanksgiving: God, we thank you for the blessings and graces that you have bestowed upon us, though we are sinners.