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For Septuagesima: Augustine of Hippo on the Laborers in the Vineyard

February 3, 2015

Again from Faith and Life, here is an excerpt from Augustine of Hippo on the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20).

We may apply the parable to this life of ours. For they are, as it were, called at the first hour, who, when fresh from their mother’s womb, begin to be Christians; those, as it were, at the third hour, who begin as boys; those, as it were, at the sixth, who begin as young men; those, as it were, at the ninth, who begin when verging towards old age; those, as it were, at the eleventh, who begin when actually in the decay of life; but all, with the prospect of receiving the one denarius of life eternal. But attend and understand, my brethren; let no one delay to come to the vineyard, on the ground that he is confident of receiving the denarius whenever he does come. He has reason to be confident that the denarius is promised to him; but he is not told to delay. Did those who were hired for the vineyard, when the householder went out to them to hire those whom he found at the third hour, say to him, “Wait, we are not going thither until the sixth?” Do thou come when thou art called. For to all an equal pay is promised; but as to the actual hour of working there is great uncertainty. If young men, when called, were to say, “Wait, for we have heard in the Gospel that all will receive one reward; when we are old, we will come at the eleventh hour; as we shall receive just as much, why should we work so much more!” the answer would be, “Do not you choose to work, you who know not whether you will live to the seventh hour?  You are called at the sixth hour; come. The householder has indeed promised you a denarius if you come even at the eleventh hour; but no one has promised that you shall live even to the seventh. Why then do you put off Him who calls you, when you are certain of the pay, uncertain of a day? Take heed lest, when He will give you the pay by promise, you rob yourself of it by putting off.”

–St. Augustine, Sermon lxxxvii.

Indeed, we should come to the Lord when the Holy Spirit prompts us – else we may not come at all.

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