The Work of the Vineyard
Meditation from Meditations for Lent from St. Thomas Aquinas by St. Thomas Aquinas
Going out about the third hour, He saw the 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.” —Matthew 20:3
1. The goodness of the Lord, going out, that is, for his people’s salvation. For that Christ should go out to lead men into the vineyard of justice was indeed an act of infinite goodness. Our Lord is five times said to have gone out. He went out in the beginning of the world, as a sower, to sow his creatures, The sower went out to sow his seed. Then in his nativity to enlighten the world, Until her just one come forth as brightness (Isa. 62:1). In his Passion to save his own from the power of the devil and from all evil, My just one is near at hand, my saviour is gone forth (Isa. 51: 5). He goes out like the father of a family, caring for his children and his goods. The kingdom of heaven is like to an
householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard (Matt. xx. 1.). Finally
he goes out to judgment, to make most strict enquiry after the wicked, like some overseer, to beat
down rebels, like some mighty fighter, and, like a judge, to punish as they merit, criminals and
2. The foolishness of men. For nothing is more foolish than that in this present life, where men ought so to work that they may live eternally, men should live in idleness. He found them in the market place idle. That market-place is this our present life. For it is in the market-place that men quarrel and buy and sell and so the market-place stands for our life of every day, full of affairs, of buying and selling and in which also the prospects of grace and heavenly glory are sold in exchange for good works.
These labourers were called idle because they had already let slip a part of their life. And not evil-doers
alone are called idle but also those who do not do good. And as the idle never attain their end, so will it
be with these. The end of man is life eternal. He therefore who works in the proper way will possess that life if he is not an idler. It is great folly to live in idleness in this life; because from idleness, as from an evil teacher, we learn evil knowledge; because through idleness we come to lose the good that lasts for ever; because through the short idleness of this life we incur a labour that is eternal.