S. Matth. 20. 1 THE kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market-place, and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good-man of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
I suppose it is appropriate that I post this two weeks late, since that puts me in the category of eleventh-hour laborers! Interestingly, the Liberal Catholic Church lectionary has this gospel for Quinquagesima, and John Plummer has some wonderful comments on it on his blog, Priestcraft.
I find much hope in this gospel, because even those of us who may have squandered our opportunities to do great things for God may still join in at this late date. God will not shame us or refuse to reward us just because we have only come to divine service late (regardless of what some who purport to speak for God may say). As it says elsewhere in scripture, Today is the day of salvation. So let us take this Lent as an opportunity we have been putting off to draw close to God, and allow ourselves to be sent into the fields to labor.
There is also hope in the fact that the owner of the field hires those whom no one else would -- those hired at the eleventh hour stood idle not out of laziness, but because they were rejected by potential employers. God chooses us for service not because of our talents or because we have a lot to offer -- God chooses all of us and then empowers us with the Spirit to do the work we are sent to do. At this eleventh hour, we see God calling women and lgbt people into the episcopate, priesthood, and diaconate, no longer allowing the church that for too long has treated the ordained ministry as a restricted club to keep them out.
Finally, we are all beginners in prayer, no matter how long we've been at it, and this gospel gives us hope that we may reap the rewards even as beginners who do not know how to pray properly.