“It’s not fair! They get the same as we do, but they’ve only been working for an hour and we, for 12!”
I suspect this reading may have had an influence on the 4th and 5th Centuries’ practice of becoming a catechumen early on but waiting for baptism until later, perhaps even until one is on the death bed. After all, if baptism cleanses one from all sins, then let’s wait until the last possible minute for that thorough scrubbing.
The parable may also call to mind the thief on the cross alongside of Jesus, the one who said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” But only Luke has this rendition (Lk 23: 42-43). Mark and Matthew have both bandits taunting Jesus.
One message from this parable is the unlimited nature of Grace. Perhaps the message is that God cannot just give out Grace proportionately to how long we have worked. Grace is grace. So what then encourages me to respond to God’s call earlier in the day rather than later? He seems to call at all times, at the start of the day and near the end. Perhaps it is because the longer I wait to respond affirmatively, the more difficult it is for me to do so. Perhaps it is my habit of “standing idle” that causes me to miss the earlier calls to work in God’s vineyards. Do I want to miss the Divine all together when I continue to say “no. ” Or do I want to say “yes” when I do happen to hear the invitation?