Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.

But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard. And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. When therefore they were come, that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny.

And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, Saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good?--Matt 20: 1-15

Septuagesima Sunday
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

Jesus asks the discontented laborers: "Is thy eye evil, because I am good?" Why do they murmur? Have they been obliged to exceed the stipulated amount of labor? No! Have they worked longer than the time specified? No! Has not the master promptly paid them? Yes! Did he give them less than he promised? No! What then is the cause of their discontent? It is envy, because those who were sent later into the vineyard to work, received the same wages.

Envy is a most dangerous, execrable yet concealed vice; a vice of which, many are guilty, but whose real wickedness few recognise. Let us employ this hour in considering its dangers.

Mary, mother of love, pray for us, that the pestilential breath of this sin may never pollute our soul! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God! We can better recognize the turpitude and wickedness of envy, by considering the beauty, merit and amiable qualities of the opposite virtue--true, heroic brotherly love.

The love of our neighbor for the love of God is a virtue which inspires us to love others as ourselves, to wish them all the good we wish ourselves, and to do for them all that we would do for our own interests. Of this commandment Christ says: "It is like unto the other," namely: to the commandment of loving God, and our salvation depends on our observance of it. Thus teach Christ and His Apostles, especially St. Paul and St. John, both of whom emphatically and frequently insist upon it.

Envy is the vice directly opposed to this commandment. This will become clear to us if we consider the teachings of St. Paul in regard to the qualities of true, active, brotherly love. "Charity," says he, "is patient, is kind; charity envieth not, is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: beareth all things, believeth all things" (i Cor. 13. 4).

Let us reverse these qualities, and we have the most perfect picture of envy. Envy is not kind; on the contrary, it is cruel, selfish, and without compassion for the needs and sufferings of others.

Envy provokes to anger, and leaves nothing untried to prevent the well-being of others. Envy seeks only its own good, and is arrogant. It thinks and does evil.

Who can count all the vices whose source is envy? Jealousy, mistrust, calumny, deceit, enmity! Envy is easily roused to anger, and brooks little contradiction. It rejoices not at the good fortune of others, but is pleased, rather, at the contrary. Oh, how terrible a vice! it tears up by the very roots, the beautiful flower of brotherly love!

I say, secondly, what a foolish vice! For it deserves also this stigma. Every sin bears the mark of insanity, and therefore it is that Holy Writ calls the sinner a fool. It were easy to point out the characteristics of insanity in the misdeeds of sinners, especially in the envious.

Envy deprives man of the use of his reason, robs him of strength of mind, and exerts an evil influence on his other faculties. The possessions of his neighbor seem better than his own, for no other reason than that another and not he is the owner!

Besides, he who is guilty of other sins has at least some satisfaction: the proud when he is honored; the miser when he counts his money and fills his coffers; the intemperate while he eats and drinks, and so of others. The envious have only the satisfaction of their anger.

Foolish vice! It harms itself while yielding to its own indulgence What a foolish, but at the same time, what a dangerous vice! It was envy that brought sin among the angels. Lucifer and his adherents, as the Fathers of the Church teach us, envied the glory of Christ, Who in His human nature stood below them, but Whom they were commanded to glorify and worship on account of the hypostatic union with the person of the Son of God.

As regards man, Holy Writ teaches us that it was through the envy of Satan that sin entered paradise. The envy of the serpent would deprive the human race not only of paradise but also of heaven. It has cast upon us innumerable woes, and has exposed us to countless dangers in working out the salvation of our soul. Satan envied mankind who were destined to take the place of the fallen angels in heaven.

Woe to us if we ever hearken to the voice of envy! Satan will then find it easy to assail us with temptations of all kinds! The first born of men became a murderer on account of envy. It was envy that induced Cain to kill Abel. It was envy that nailed the Redeemer of mankind to the cross.

It is true that pride introduced heresy into the world, and thus corrupted countless souls and wrought their eternal ruin; but envy is the twin-brother of pride, the second poisonous fang of the serpent of hell. Not seldom has its influence been felt since the origin and dissemination of heresy, especially since the last and most pernicious of all, namely, Protestantism.

Pride mated with envy has given birth in our own day to the heresy whose followers style themselves the Old Catholics. Yet more lamentable is the fact that envy, even among the good, has succeeded in preventing much that otherwise would have been done for the salvation of souls and the welfare of the Church, thus effecting incalculable mischief in every age of the Christian era.

It is envy that lights the torch of war among nations, and destroys the peace and happiness of congregations and home circles. Yere there no envy among mortals earth would become a paradise. Envy were capable of changing even heaven into a place of torment, and for this reason it is, as Gregory the Great says, "The mark of the damned."

The condition of the envious is the more dangerous, because the poison of envy is concealed. How few think themselves guilty of this sin! how few accuse themselves of it, and endeavor to uproot it from their hearts with the determination of St. Francis of Sales, who says: "Did I know that a fibre of envy were beating in my heart, I would tear it out!"

Follow his example, cost what it may, and instead of that detestable parasite, guard deep within your heart the holy virtue of heroic brotherly love! Amen!

"Why stand you here all the day idle?"--Matt. 20.

The reproach which Christ in today's Gospel addresses to those who remained idle until the eleventh hour, is unfortunately one which might he addressed to the greater portion of mankind, yes even to many of the children of the Church.

We usually live careless of eternity, seemingly forgetful why we are here upon earth, and that this life was not given us to seek the honors, joys and treasures of this world, but to gather merit for eternity. How many men, how many children even of the Church are idle in this regard!

Let us earnestly take to heart this reproach, at once so true so important, so salutary for time and eternity, and endeavor to purchase back the hours we lost in idleness, and to employ with the zeal of the saints the days still left to us.

Mary, thou faithful handmaid of the Lord, pray for us that, following thy example, we may employ our entire life in gaining our salvation through Jesus Christ our Redeemer! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!

"Why stand you here all the day idle?" What an astonishing, incomprehensible, and yet only too true fact! This becomes clear to us if we consider the character of our life upon earth, and the relation in which it stands to eternity. Our life here below is the time which God gives us to prepare ourselves for the world to come.

If we reflect how precious time is, how short and how uncertain are the days of our life, we certainly would expect man to think of nothing else, than how to employ the days of his life in securely reaching that end for which life was given.

A crown, a high degree of glory, is the recompense for every moment well employed. St. Chrysostom was right when he exclaimed: "Time, thou art worth as much as God!" But time is so short; for what is the longest life compared to eternity? In addition to this, not one moment of this short time is certain. How often death surprises man, and then his precious time is gone, never to return. Man knows this, the Christian believes it; therefore how incomprehensible their neglect to employ their time after the zealous earnestness of the saints! This becomes still more incomprehensible, when we consider how provident man is of his time in regard to temporal affairs and the acquisition of earthly goods. They hesitate not to cross the ocean in the often disappointed hope of securing employment and gaining money, while, if they only seize the opportunity, they will never lack profitable labor in the grand affair of their salvation.

And yet how many lose and kill time! I wish to call your attention to the following classes of idlers:

The first are those who lose their time from sheer indolence. They are those drones, who do their duty neither as citizens nor as Christians. They dream away their time, and awake when it is too late, to the grand reality of life. They want self-abnegation. These . especially deserve the reproach: "Why stand you here idle?"

The second class are those who idle away their time by excessive labor, not for the salvation of their soul but through an inordinate care for the things of this world. I call them industrious idlers. Apparently they are occupied, but in reality they do nothing, since they are busy only for this fleeting world and not for eternity. They think themselves, however, much wiser than those who fail to accumulate an equal amount of temporal wealth. But all their labor, all their success is of no value towards their eternal welfare; indeed, as far as this is concerned they might better, perhaps, have remained as idle as the former. For, in their eagerness to gain temporal goods, they may have yielded to temptation and then, being in the state of sin, gained nothing even when they seemed to be laboring for heaven. These are the industrious idlers who, in the words of Holy Writ, exclaim when it is too late: "We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity" and of temporal care.

There are others who, though they live in the state of grace, may yet be said to lose the time which has been granted to them to work out their salvation. To this third class of idlers belong those who lose their time in vain conversations and idle gossiping. Oh, how many apparently pious souls belong to this class of idlers! They talk ten, nay a hundred times too much. Even in necessary business how many useless words are spoken, how many moments wasted in idleness! Instead of leaving after having obtained the desired information, we remain and continue conversing about the same affair, though we previously stated all that was necessary; and in this manner we lose the time we should give to work.

But how shall we designate the many idlers who lose their time by too frequent visits and by prolonging this useless and sometimes dangerous pastime, till late in the night? Instead of regulating our visits by the just demands of friendship or of Christian neighborly love, we seek only to enjoy the society and conversation of others, forgetting that we could employ our time much better in sanctifying ourselves and others by works of charity.

Lastly, what shall we say of the idleness of pleasure-seekers, of those who pass day and night in gambling, dancing and other worldly amusements? How much time is lost for eternity in this manner! How much in visiting watering places, frequenting theatres and balls! There is also a certain class of people who lose their time in travelling for the sake of pleasure. I call these travelling idlers.

To all these we must needs add the large number of drunkards who, in their revels, heed not quickly passing time, and employ it neither for their temporal nor spiritual welfare who squander their money, impoverish their families and not unfrequently end their days in the almshouse. What a despicable class of idlers!

In conclusion, let me mention those who are idlers on account of negligence in renewing their good intention. The good we do, must be done with the right intention, that is, for God's sake and for His sake only. Of course this does not mean that a Christian may not transact business or perform this or that work for the sake of gain, friendship or neighborly love, as our circumstances in life make necessary; only let these good and praiseworthy intentions be secondary to the one just mentioned.

Christian, lay your hand upon your heart and tell me, if you do not belong to one of these classes of idlers, or perhaps to all of them? Make now the firm resolution of profiting well by the time yet left to you that, one day in the kingdom of eternal life, God may assign to you your reward! Amen!

The Calls of God to His Creatures
by Bishop Ehrler, 1891

"The kingdom of heaven is like to a master of a family who went out early
in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard!" (Matt. 20: 1.)

The Gospel of Septuagesima Sunday is one of the most profound and comprehensive of the ecclesiastical year. The whole history of man, the history of the kingdom of God upon earth, from the first day in which the Lord created the universe and went forth to hire laborers into his vineyard, down to the last, to the evening of the world, when he will come to judge the living and the dead, and to reward each one according to his works,--all this, my brethren, is delineated in the brief but striking epitome which constitutes the parable of this Sunday, and these words, moreover, are well calculated to stir up in us an earnest spirit of penance. Therefore, we will consider today:

I. The various calls of the Lord to mankind in the course of time; and
II. What thoughts these calls of God must awaken in our souls.

I. "The master of a family went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard."

1. Early in the morning the Almighty went forth to create the world, the heavens and the earth. He made Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and placed them in Paradise, in a garden of delights, in order to cultivate and take care of it. Mankind was to remain obedient and faithful to the divine will and commands, until the great day of life was passed, when God agreed to give them the promised reward of everlasting happiness --God repeats this, His first going forth, at the birth of every human being. In the early morning of our life, He graciously draws near to us. He raises us through the holy Sacrament of Baptism to a higher, supernatural life, and fills us with His Holy Spirit. He calls us through the first impressions of a pious Christian education, through the salutary instructions of our parents, teachers, pastors, and confessors, urging us to remain faithful to Him from the very beginning of our lives, and to cultivate the garden of our hearts (that other vineyard of God), preserving it from the blighting influence of evil.

2. The Master of the family went forth for a second time into the world. Those who were first called by God, in the wickedness of their hearts, refused Him their service and obedience. They fell away from their God, and His Holy Spirit departed from them. "My spirit," says the Bible, " shall not remain in man forever, because he is flesh."(Gen. 6: 3.) Men became carnal, and the Spirit of God could no longer dwell with them. "God seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times," (Gen. 6 :45) after the first thousand years, went forth for the second time; at the third hour, as it were, He went forth in order to hire laborers into his vineyard. He destroyed by the Deluge those first inhabitants of the earth, those giants of old, and chose Noah as the progenitor of a new and better race. He made with him a special covenant more gracious than that which He had concluded with his predecessors. As a perpetual sign of this covenant, he placed His bow in the heavens to shine before all future generations as a memorial of His second going forth in order to hire laborers into His vineyard.

In the third hour of our lives did not the Lord also go forth the second time to engage us as laborers in his vineyard? In our rash and impetuous youth, when the gracious impressions of earlier days are lost or forgotten; when our natural concupiscence is generally quickened, and all our thoughts are bent upon evil--the Lord goes forth a second time to warn us, and call us again to his service. In youth, when man, in the arrogance of his heart, woos the children of the world, like those giants of old, and imitates them in sin and wickedness--the Lord going forth for the second time, approaches them with the greatest graces, in order to save them from ruin. He approaches us with the grace of holy Confirmation; and, in the anointing of holy Chrism, He places upon our brows the sign of that great covenant which binds us to him as faithful laborers, during the remainder of our life. He comes to us in those perilous years with the grace of absolution; and He enters into the depths of our souls in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, to seal and confirm the blessed covenant of His mercy.

3. At the sixth and at the ninth hours, the Lord went forth for the third and fourth times, saying to those whom he found idle: "Go you also into my vineyard." Another thousand years, the third epoch in the history of the world, had passed like a courier in flying haste. A thousand years are as a single day before God, and as the stream of time rolls rapidly into the bosom of eternity, men again forgot their God, as they had done from the beginning. All their time and affections were given up to temporal affairs. Sunk in luxury and wantonness, in the pride of their sinful hearts, they began to turn away wholly from their Creator. But, before they were driven by want to seek new dwelling places in strange lands, they wished to erect a proud monument of their earthly sinful endeavors. They built a mighty tower in order to have a visible centre upon the earth, a rallying point, so to speak, for their race, and for their worldly ambition. But God desired to be the spiritual centre of his creatures; and that their eyes should not be directed to the work of their own hands but be raised up above these mundane things even to the highest heavens. And God descended from those celestial heights, and confounded their speech. (Gen. 11: 6-8.)

The eyes of men, however, remained fixed upon the earth. Separated from God, they could not help being immersed in sins and vices. At last, they sank so deep in iniquity and forgetfulness of God, that they paid divine honors to the stars and to images made by their own hands; they cast themselves down in worship before men and beasts, and even adored the corrupt deities of their own foul sins and vices. Thus the thirtieth century in the world's history, with its overwhelming weight of woe and evil, sank into the stream of time: and the thirty-first began its dark existence. Far from God, given over to earthly desires, and hardened in the most abominable vices and crimes, mankind wandered forlorn in the broad road that leadeth to destruction.

4. Then it was that the master of the family went forth again at the sixth hour; then it was that God made a new covenant with Abraham the Just, so that, through him, the precious and fast-expiring sparks of the worship of the true God and of the hope of a Redeemer might be kept alive. He took him from his nation and from his father's house, to found in him the progenitor of a new race, the chosen people of God. In him, were all the generations of mankind to be blessed; and at the appointed time, the grace of redemption was destined to descend upon all nations through his offspring, as through a holy channel. That his people might not forget this third going forth of their God, and might always remember the covenant of mercy made with Abraham, the Lord, in the rite of Circumcision, cut the sign of that covenant in their very flesh.

5. At the ninth hour, he went forth again and called Moses, His servant. He sent the Prophets to remind His people continually of His merciful promises, and of their high vocation; and when, in spite of all, they forsook Him and despised His benefits, He strove to recall them to their duty, at one time by the most extraordinary manifestations of love and kindness, and again by severity and rigorous chastisements.

If we consider the going forth of the Lord at the sixth and ninth hours, those merciful efforts of the great Master of the human family which extended through two thousand years of the world's existence, do we not find, my brethren, these same goings forth represented also, in our lives? What are the sixth and ninth hours in which the Lord repeatedly goes forth to call us, as laborers, into His vineyard? Contemplate the vision of your lives, that important period extending from youth to middle age and on into old age; consider those years in which man, being burdened with earthly cares, sinks into complete forgetfulness of God and of his soul's salvation; those many long years of middle life--do they not resemble those ancient years beginning with the call of Abraham and including the history of the people of Israel down to the end of the fortieth century of the world? Does not the Lord in these long years, as in the sixth and in the ninth hours, appear repeatedly to warn and to remind us of the great mission which He so earnestly desires us to accomplish? Does He not earnestly call upon His creatures to come and devote to His service, those precious years of life which remain for them? Does He not, again and again, offer them His choicest graces, calling them forth, as He did Abraham and the whole Jewish people, from their nation, their homes, and their abiding place in an unbelieving and sinful life, making them by His covenant of mercy the progenitors of a new race, the chosen children of God? Does He not often and plainly speak to them as He once spoke to the Jews, by alternate acts of kindness and severity, threats and caresses, and by the solemn warnings of the Prophets re-echoed by the voice of His Church? O that we had heeded His gracious calls during those past years! O that we were now laboring faithfully in His vineyard, looking joyfully forward to the close of the long day of life, for our great recompense--the infinite treasures of the kingdom of God!

6. "About the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing: and He saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard." What is this last going forth of the Master of the family at the eleventh hour, but the coming of the Incarnate God upon the earth, in order to call mankind for the last time, and engage laborers for His vineyard?" God having spoken on divers occasions, and many ways, in times past, to the fathers by the prophets: last of all, in these days, hath spoken to us by His Son." (Hebr. 1: 1, 2.)

7. The Prophets had spoken in vain. Mankind continued to sink deeper and deeper into the slough of vice and iniquity. Millions stood idle, for there was none to guide or assist them in working out their salvation. The Gentiles could truly say: "No man hath hired us." They were lying idle on the highways of life, far from God and estranged from Him and His kingdom, buried deeply in the mire of error and superstition. With untiring mercy towards His obstinate and wayward creatures, the Lord arose for the last time to fulfill His promises, and called the Gentile world into his vineyard. All mankind were thus privileged to spend, at least, the last hours of the day in His service and to receive in the great evening of the world's history the promised penny of everlasting life.

Thus, also, God goes forth in the evening of every life, for the last time, to call to Himself that poor soul that is satiated and wearied with its miserable existence. He speaks to it in plain words; He makes clear to it the transitory and empty nature of all earthly things; and He draws near to it with the consolations of His greatest graces, so that, absolved and strengthened by the holy Sacraments of Viaticum and Extreme Unction, the departing spirit may follow Him, at last, into His celestial vineyard. Alas, in that solemn hour will be fulfilled with many men the words of the Lord, when He lamented over the prevarication of all mankind, and cried out by the voice of His prophet: "All the day long have I spread forth my hands to a people that believeth not, and contradicteth me!" (Rom. 10: 21.)

II. Casting a glance over those great epochs of the world in which, from time to time, God went forth to call men into his vineyard, and contrasting with them the different periods of human life at which God in His mercy calls us to His service, I imagine I hear a supernatural voice resounding loud and strong from the abyss of by-gone centuries and enunciating these three grand watch-words:

1. God is merciful at all times.

2. Work diligently in the vineyard of the Lord,
whenever He calls you to His service; and

3. Take courage and enter, even though, perhaps, you have
been late in following the call of the divine Master.

1. The infinite and incomprehensible mercy of God is illustrated in an admirable manner in the beautiful parable of today's Gospel. The master of a family goes out early in the morning, to hire laborers into his vineyard; he goes out at the third hour, and again, at the sixth and ninth hours. Nay, he goes out once more at the eleventh hour, and calls all who are standing idle into his vineyard, in order to give to them the penny of everlasting life. Does not every later going-forth call out more loudly than the preceding one: "Thy mercy is magnified even to the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds." (Ps. 56: 11.) Or, when God with even richer and more abundant clemency, calls His creatures, in the fullness of time, revealing to them His inmost being, and sending down His only begotten Son upon the earth; when the Son of God wanders wearily through the rough valleys of this lower sphere sinking, at last, under the cruel weight of that Cross, on which He was to consummate the redemption of the world, do not His infinite love and self-sacrifice proclaim yet more loudly and emphatically: "Thy mercy is magnified even to the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds?" It would have been love and mercy if the Lord had only established His great Vineyard, and called mankind therein, in the beginning of time; promising them the penny of his heavenly reward. If He had gone forth but once for that divine purpose, we would have had abundant reason to praise Him and His mercy everlastingly with the stars of heaven and to rejoice forever with the sons of God. But the Lord went forth repeatedly, and, with never-failing endurance, called to His service the successors of the unhappy people who had despised his earlier calls.

2. Should not we who have been called at the eleventh hour to receive the overflowing stream of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, praise His great mercy towards us? Look back upon the millions and millions of human lives falling like drops of water into the bosom of the earth, and returning no more;--look back upon the countless children of men who have wandered over the face of the globe since the days of Adam, of Noah, of Abraham, and of the Prophets, and question these hosts, passing before our eyes like the shifting sands of the desert, if they can boast of as great grace and mercy as we have received. They all desired and hoped to see the day of Christ; that the gracious sun of Redemption might shine upon them and bring them to everlasting life and happiness. Behold among them the noblest spirits, the brightest and best of the heathen world, the most faithful and devout of the Jewish people. They stand before us in grief,--yea, in a sort of holy despair,--with eyes inclined to the earth, weighed down by the burden of sin which thousands of years have heaped upon their shoulders; and if they raise their eyes to heaven, they see only the barred gates and the closed entrance to Paradise, or the dark and joyless Limbo which awaited the just before the atonement of Christ. Without any merit on our part, the Lord has called us in the clear, bright day of Redemption into His heavenly kingdom. We may drink to the full from that stream of blessings which was a sealed fountain for thousands of years. Must we not in the great gratitude of our hearts cry out with the royal Psalmist: "The mercies of the Lord will I sing forever?" (Ps. 88: 2.)

3. Look into your own life, and ponder upon the calls to His vineyard with which the Lord has so often favored you. Number all the admonitions of the grace of God which He has, in a manner, squandered on you--how He called you in the innocence of childhood,--how He drew near you for the second and third time in your youth; how He repeatedly approached you in the sixth and ninth hours, and now, perhaps, even at the eleventh hour how He once more calls your soul to His service--are you not bound with special gratitude to proclaim and praise the mercy of the Lord? It would be a beautiful and profitable sight if we could look down into the soul of every human being and there contemplate how the Lord draws most lovingly and mercifully near to every soul in the various seasons and hours of life. Above, in the life of eternity, where we shall no more see as through a glass darkly, but face to face, the visitations of God for the salvation of our souls will stand forth before our eyes clearly and visibly, and will fill us with everlasting gratitude. For your own part, the various calls of the divine Master, all cry out to you if you will but hearken to their eloquent accents: "Work in the vineyard of the Lord at whatever hour He has called upon you, and the reward which he, in the evening, will distribute among His chosen ones will, likewise, be yours!"

(a) Our call to the celestial Vineyard, and the penny of reward which is promised us, are certainly a pure gift from the mercy of God. "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," (Rom. 9: 16,) to make men, one day, partakers of the heavenly glory. But it requires faithful and untiring labor on our side if the decrees of God's mercy shall be fulfilled in our regard. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His Angels: and then will He render to every man according to his works." (Matt. 16: 27.) "Many are called, but few are chosen," says the Lord to us in the Gospel of this day. "Therefore, . . . be ye steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the works of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. 15: 58.) Without the grace of God we cannot be saved; neither shall we reach eternal bliss unless we co-operate with that grace.

(b) It is then with good reason that our Lord compares the service which He demands from each one of us with the labor which a master requires in His vineyard. The vine exacts from its owner the utmost care and persistent labor. But if the extraordinary care of the vinedresser be not assisted by the warm rays of the sun and a season of propitious weather, all his labor and trouble are fruitless. The Lord expects from us Christians a most careful and laborious assiduity in His service. Our Blessed Lord calls the kingdom of heaven a costly pearl, so as to represent to us the trouble we must take to procure it! Pearls are not found upon the roads, or lying about in profusion, so that they can be picked up without any effort or trouble. The pearlfisher embarks in a small boat upon dangerous waters; and the diver descends to the bottom of the sea in order to bring forth the precious gem. Our Saviour calls the kingdom of heaven a precious treasure, in order to show us that as we must dig into the bowels of the earth with much labor and sweat to lay hold of its gold and silver, so we must suffer and toil in His service if we would bring up from the depths of our souls, the priceless treasures of eternal life.

(c) All whom the master of the family called at different times (according to the words of the Gospel) accepted, without delay, his gracious invitation. No one turned back from the gates of the vineyard; and no one stopped working after having once entered therein. All labored uninterruptedly until evening, when the Lord of the vineyard said to his steward: "Call the laborers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first." They all received the same wages--the penny which he had promised them; those who had labored only one hour, and those who had borne the burden and the heat of the day. This fact recorded (in the Gospel) of the lord of the vineyard was not intended to imply that it was a matter of indifference to him how many hours in the day a laborer had worked for him, or how faithful or how careless he had shown himself in his work; but He (the Saviour) meant, on that occasion, to teach the Pharisees this great truth: That all men have a common claim upon the reward of eternal happiness. Those haughty Pharisees believed that, as the descendants of the chosen people of God, they had a much greater right to the everlasting joys-of heaven, than the other nations, which He afterwards called into His kingdom.

(d) In whatever hour the Lord sends forth the calls of His grace to us, whether it be in the middle, or in the beginning, of our lives, let us correspond to it immediately and work unceasingly, like all those whom the master of the Gospel called into His vineyard; so that we may receive not merely the penny of salvation, but the richest joys and the highest degree of glory, as the reward of our labors. Let us toil unintermittingly at our task until the night of Death descends upon us: so that the Lord may not say to us, as He did to the Jews of old: "The publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you." (Matt. 21 : 31.)

(e) Take courage, aged man, venerable woman, take courage though, perhaps, you have been late in following the call of God. There is comfort for all in the words of our Gospel: "The last shall be first, and the first last." Or, says the Lord: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thine eye evil because I am good?" (Matt. 20 : 15.) "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." (Rom. 9 : 15.) "And therefore, have I raised thee, that I may show my power in thee, and my name may be spoken of throughout all the earth." (Exod. 9 : 16.) Our salvation will always be the work of grace and of our own co-operation. Every moment of our lives which is sanctified by the grace of God, bears in itself the prize of everlasting happiness in heaven. Every human work performed through divine grace, has a claim to the promised reward. It is, therefore, never too late to enter upon the service of God, or to work in His holy vineyard. When the grace of God and His mercy begin to shine upon the sinner, then will the darkness of the blackest night be changed into the brightest day. While no one has a right to everlasting bliss, yet can we, at all times, build our hopes of salvation upon the all-powerful grace of God. That, alone, can give us--when and where it pleases--the reward of eternal life.

Do we not see in the history of those Saints whom the Lord called late in life, how through their great love, and through their fiery zeal, the last have become first? St. Paul was called by Christ after he had persecuted the Church and was "yet breathing out the threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," yet of his faithful co-operation with grace, he cries out: "By the grace of God, I am what I am: and His grace in me hath not been void, but I have labored more than all,"--meaning the other Apostles. (1 Cor. 15 : 10.) St. Mary Magdalen (and with her, thousands of penitent souls), received at a still later hour, the divine call of repentance,--nevertheless, the Lord hath said of her: "Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much." (Luke 7 :47.) Has not the Christian era, the eleventh and last hour of the world's history, done more for the spread of the kingdom of truth and virtue than all the earlier periods? Is not the whole history of Christianity,--are not all of us who were called from among the Gentiles, shining proofs of the words of our Lord: "The last shall be first, and the first last?"

"Go thou, also, into my vineyard"--thus the Lord says to every human soul, as, in His various goings forth from the throne of His glory, He walks throughout the world. But who could believe, or comprehend, that God will vouchsafe to call for the second and third time the man who has despised and rejected his first invitation? Who could believe it, and sin against the divine mercy? Ah! no, my dearly beloved, entering with holy earnestness and in a penitential spirit upon this sacred season of Lent,--let us attend to the voice of God, let us promptly respond to the merciful and maternal invitation of His holy Church, to the end that we may not merely be reckoned among the many called, but also,--praise to the infinite mercy of God!--among the blessed few chosen! Amen.