On a street near one of the train stations in Seoul, workers gather looking for work. The police are there to keep order. The workers there to sell their manpower to feed their families. Whether it snows or rain the workers are waiting to be hired for the day when the waiting time is over there is both the mixture of joy and sadness. Those selected will take the vehicle to the worksite and the others empty-handed head home.
The average monthly salary in Korea is about 3,000 dollars but the gap between the have and have-nots continues to get larger. So begins an article in Bible and Life by a Seoul parish priest.
The words of Jesus come to mind in his parable of the grape workers waiting to be hired. They were the poorest in society. Worse off than the slaves of those days. The salary at that time for a day's work was one denarius, barely enough to feed a family. The kind landowner of the Gospel went looking for those without work right up to sunset to send them to his vineyard.
Calling the workers to work in the vineyard is not the central issue of the parable, the focus is the payment of the workers. Those who worked from sunrise got the same amount as those who worked only one hour. They received what was promised but they expected more: "They only worked for one hour and we worked the whole day in the hot sun—yet you paid them the same as you paid us!"
It's common sense that the workers get paid according to time spent in the work done. However, in this case, the owner had a different standard. This owner did not consider the quantity or quality of the work.
"My ways are not your ways—it is Yahweh who speaks. Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts"(Isaiah 55:8).
In a short story called "The Last Judgment," Karel Capek (1890-1938) tells of a murderer, a serial killer, Kugler, who arrives before God to be judged. He is brought before the heavenly court to see if the afterlife would be heaven or not. God is called as a witness who explains thoroughly to the judges about the crimes. They sentence him to lifelong punishment in hell. Krugler expected God to be his judge: "Why you who is God don't judge but allow people just like me to pass judgment?"
God answers: "I know everything if the judge knew everything... he would not be able to judge. Consequently, he must know only about the acts of killing that you are guilty of. Since I know everything I am not able to judge."
In this short story, we are given a reason why God's judgment is always just and the reason we have to have mercy and love towards others. God knows our story from the time in the womb and from before, we see only the results of action. In the parable of the vineyard, we see only inefficient workers, God sees workers who can't find work.
In the parable of the kindhearted owner of the vineyard, we see the loving heart of God. In this world as in the manpower markets of the world, we see the capable and not so capable. In the clamor of the world, we, on the other hand, know that God is offering us his graces everyday like food and wants us to recognize and accept the invitation.