Recently I attended a reunion of a group of former residents of International Friendship House where I used to live as a graduate student. The house was part of an outreach Christian ministry. This summer, the board members decided to sell the house. The head of the board invited all of the former residents back to the house for one last time together. I made an effort to attend the reunion because the house was part of my life and faith journey. I lived there for five years and at one point was a resident advisor. The reunion turned bad for me due to several reasons. First, I arrived late, literally, I was the last person to arrive. I entered the house and saw an old friend. I could not contain my excitement as I had not seen her for years. In this excitement, another member quieted me as the group was in the middle of prayer. After the prayers and reflection completed, I went to greet all of my old friends. As I wandered through the house, one stop I made was in the library to check on the book collection. Suddenly, someone asked me “how can I help you?” (spoken in an inquisitive tone of voice). I said that I was just looking at the books. She continued to ask me with an inquisitive tone, “is there anything I can help you with?” At this point I was appalled by her questions and even more appalled by the treatment that I received in this reunion. People treated me as a stranger or even an intruder.
My experience is not much different than the workers in today’s Gospel. As I, who was the last person to come to the reunion, I felt rejected just like the people who came early in the Gospel. And, my reaction was similar to the disgruntled workers who thought that they would receive more payment because they came first. I thought that I deserved better recognition and treatment since I was one of the longest residents of the house and a former resident advisor. Similarly, in today’s Gospel, those disgruntled workers complained to the landowner because they felt that they deserved better wages than those who worked for only an hour. Jesus reminds us that no matter how long or how hard a Christian works during his lifetime, the reward of eternal life is the same gift given to all—an eternity in heaven in the presence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.