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Fighting the Temptation to be a Christian Minimalist
Why work so much? What is the point of spending your entire life "working in the vineyard" if the people who come in at the end of the day receive the same reward? These are some of the questions that arise from the readings today. They are also questions that we are constantly faced with in our daily lives. The temptation is one toward minimalism: What is the least I can do to get by?
It seems that Paul was dealing with this question for himself in the second reading. He speaks of his desire to be with the Lord, to have the sufferings of the present life cease. He too dealt with the temptation of minimalism.
The Gospel parable is also interesting because it shows us a situation that we would think of as being very unfair. From our perspective it seems obvious that those who worked longer hours deserve more pay. In the face of this, we are reminded in the first reading that "God's way are not our way, His thoughts are not our thoughts." Our current way of thinking about fairness and what one deserves is challenged in this reading.
So God is exceedingly generous, the question still stands; why do more than the minimum if the reward is the same? The answer to this is based on what we profess to believe. The truth of the world is that God exists, that He loves us, and that He desires to be with us. This may sound basic but it is exactly why it makes sense to enter the vineyard as early as possible.
All humanity is driven to seek the truth, to know more. Because we have faith in the reality of God and the way He sees the world, we Christians can claim to be more human than those who don't believe. In this way, being a faithful member of this faith community, coming to church week after week, working in the vineyard of the Lord, all of this is its own reward. We are privileged to live in the truth and, if we follow this line of thought to its conclusion, we see that our present life is already a sharing in the communion with God promised us in the life to come.
But there is work that we are called to, we are called to help other see and accept that truth that animates our lives. This is what working in the vineyard means today, to witness to the light we have found and invite others to come forth from their darkness. God has been generous with us in allowing us to live in the fullest revelation of his truth. We, in turn, must be generous with our own time and gifts to offer that opportunity to those who are not yet aware.
Please, fight the temptation to be a Christian minimalist. We have been given a great blessing to lay hold of the truth God has seen fit to reveal to humanity. In His generosity, we learn generosity. By our living out of this deep truth of humanity may we also always be seeking out ways to invite others into the life we have found.