The Laborer’s Wages

“My client is not in a hurry. He has all the time in the world.”
—Antoni Gaudi, renowned Spanish Architect (1852-1926), in response to his pace on a cathedral.

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

“Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.”

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

PRAYER FOCUS: LABORING for the LORD

Antoni Gaudi (1852 – 1926) was a leader in what became known as the architectural Modernist Movement. Nearly a century later, it is still difficult to classify Gaudi’s work simply because he defied labels then and now.

You see, Gaudi was a deeply religious man. By his own admission, he was most powerfully influenced by the artistry of God that he saw in nature. He looked for the beauty in things. He wanted his work to reflect that beauty. He often said, “Originality begins at the Origin.”

Gaudi’s final and most famous work was the cathedral known as La Sagrada Familia, or The Sacred Family. Gaudi began work in 1883 when his career as an architect was still ascendant. He devoted the last decade of his life exclusively to it. It is full of Christian icons and architectural symbolism, which, like nature itself, must be beheld to be appreciated.

Construction was underway in 1926 when Gaudi was killed in a tram accident. His unfinished project languished for decades, undergoing periods of continued construction as private funds permitted. Somehow it survived the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), although several of the interior features were destroyed, along with Gaudi’s models and his workshop. Today La Sagrada Familia is still under construction, still funded entirely by private donations. Modern building technologies are now being employed, from computer-assisted design and engineering analysis to high-speed laser-guided robotic stone milling. Its estimated completion date is 2026, the centennial year of Gaudi’s death.

Consider the vineyard workers described by our Lord, in the Lectionary Gospel passage in Matthew 20. Jesus told His Disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard…”

Now that metaphorical vineyard is the Church. We are all called upon to be laborers in this vineyard. Here we plant, water, fence and fertilize. We prune, dress, dig and weed. It is hard work, but good and joyous work. Both our labor and our fruits must honor our Lord.

We keep our own vineyard just as we do our Master’s. Our souls are well-tended, well-nourished and free of weeds. We are productive.

Our Father-God is always looking for workers. Like the workers waiting in the marketplace, our souls stand ready to be hired into some service or other. We are all creatures of labor of one form or another. We will serve either righteousness or iniquity. The Devil, through temptation and deceit, is also looking to hire laborers into his field—to wallow hungry in filth and feed swine. We choose each day whom we will serve. Those choices matter.

Our wages are fair and adequate for the day. The Denarius was a silver coin that constituted the daily wage for both an unskilled laborer and a common soldier. At the time this parable was told, one denarius could buy enough bread to feed a worker’s family for one day. By paying the last hired the same wage as those who had worked many hours longer, the proverbial vineyard owner is making sure all of his workers can feed their families, and none of them have to choose which children would eat and which ones would go hungry. With an appreciative nod to Mick Jagger, there is some truth to the classic lyric, “you can’t always get what you want—you get what you need.”

The people who began Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia project have not lived to see its end. Likewise, none of the people who will finish it (presumably in 12 years, in 2026) saw the project’s beginning. The workers in the middle have seen neither beginning nor end. And yet, the man (or woman) who lays the last stone in La Sagrada Familia will have made no less a contribution than the individual who laid the first one. Hopefully the finished cathedral will endure for a long time, and will reflect the Origin that Gaudi sought to glorify.

In this week’s Lectionary we pray, “not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly—to hold fast to those [things] that shall endure.” Receive that, dear Christian. Don’t be anxious. Love. Hold fast to eternal things.

It’s Monday Morning. How is your vineyard today? Need to prune anything, maybe pull a few weeds?

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