The Last Shall Be The First

The Last Shall Be The First

September 24, 2023
17th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2023
Readings: Jonah 3:10-4:11
Philippians 1:21-27
Matthew 20:1-6

Christ uses parables to teach us so that we may be able to understand Him in a better way. Parables are an explanation of what the law is trying to imply. They are not the law but an explanation or illustration. “Many who are first shall be last and many who are last shall be first.” He was wanting to let us know that we are all equal.

Romans 9:18 “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Romans 9:25

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one.” What God has done for us is great, but He expects responsibility from us. The Gospel from the beginning was to be preached to the gentiles. Paul, who was Saul before his rebirth, came after the Apostles, and yet in many ways, he was greater. Ephesians 3:15 “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

In order for us to understand the story of the Vineyard, we need to know its background. The Vineyard represents the Church. Adam was the first to be called to work in the vineyard. On the 3rd hour, it was Noah. On the 6th hour, it was Abraham. On the 9th hour, it was Moses. And on the 11th hour, it’s the gentiles and we belong to this category. Those who came before us had more work to do. They had to go through many difficulties. We who are brought in at the 11th hour should consider ourselves blessed.

In the Parable today, we see a group of people who go to the marketplace, waiting to be called to get hired. They have with them their tools, ready for work. The marketplace represents the world. The landowner goes to the marketplace and hires some people, telling them they will be paid each a denarius. After a while, the landowner goes out again at the third hour, then again at the 6th hour, and again the 9th hour, telling them the same thing and how much they will be paid. Their tasks in the vineyard basically are; pruning, dressing, digging, watering, waiting and fencing. At the 11th hour, the landowner goes to the marketplace again and sees a man without a job. So he hires him even if there was only an hour left for work to be accomplished. When the day was done, he calls the foreman to pay all the employees and each one of them was given a denarius. Even the last one who worked only for an hour received the same payment. The others who worked much earlier got upset because they had worked longer hours. The landowner told them it was up to him to make the decision and that he had the right to do what he wanted to do with his own money and that he was not being unfair.

We are actually seeing the mercy and compassion of God and how He loves us. And He gives us the ability and grace to do the tasks. If He rewards us for what He has already given us to do what is needed, He is pleased, He blesses us more. He will judge us by our attitude towards the work that we are doing. By the love we have for the work we do for Him, where there should be in our hearts, the joy of serving the Lord.

In the system of the world, a few are rich but many are poor. In the Kingdom of God, all are equal.

1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The mercy, love and grace are seen in this parable because the last who came received the same blessing as the first one. We are called to work in His vineyard. There are no “sitters” in the church. Everyone should be working. We should not be pampered. God is the landowner who will take care of us. We may be the last generation but we have been richly blessed. May we continue to work in His Kingdom.


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