The Red Vineyard / Red Vineyard at Arles (Montmajour),
Painted by Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890),
Painted in Arles on 4 November 1888,
Oil on canvas
© Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

The Red Vineyard / Red Vineyard at Arles (Montmajour),
Painted by Vincent Van Gogh (1853–1890),
Painted in Arles on 4 November 1888,
Oil on canvas
© Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Gospel of 24 September 2023

The landowner chose to pay the last comer as much

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

Reflection on the painting

Our painting is the only painting we know of that Van Gogh sold in his lifetime!

But first our parable. The parable Jesus shares with us today does not make a great deal of sense by the standards of today’s labour market. It so much at odds with today’s way of thinking: they more you work, the more you should earn. If you work 12 hours a day, or only one hour a day, surely the pay can’t be the same! We consider the employer in our parable to have acted very unfairly in giving the same wage to the men who worked just for the last hour as to those who began work in the early morning and worked all day. I think most of us have a somewhat similar reaction to the parable of the prodigal son. The elder son who had worked away faithfully on his father’s estate complains of being treated less favourably than the rebel who headed off and wasted his resources. We tend to side with the elder son. So what is Jesus trying to tell us?

Jesus is portraying this image of God, the landowner in our story, as simply being extremely generous. His ways are not our ways. His generosity goes far beyond our sense of generosity and justice. If God’s ways seem disconcerting or even unfair to us at first, they are ultimately very reassuring. The parable suggests that God does not relate to us according to strict justice, but that for each of us the thrill of divine generosity is available through boundless grace. And that is maybe also what today’s reading is about, for us to allow something of God’s ways to shape our ways, so that we too may relate to others not on the basis of strict justice but out of the generosity of our heart.

As I mentioned, our painting is the only painting we know of that Van Gogh sold in his lifetime. Painted two years before he died, it shows a mature Van Gogh at work, depicting workers in a vineyard. Titled The Red Vineyard, it was exhibited at the annual exhibition of Les XX, 1890, in Brussels, and sold for 400 francs (equal to about $2,000 today) to Belgian painter and collector Anna Boch, a member of Les XX. In a later letter to his brother Theo discussing the sale, Vincent admitted with some embarrassment that the Bochs paid the Les XX 1890 Exhibition sticker price, when in fact they probably should have gotten a ‘friend's price’.

Share this Gospel Reading

Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?

Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading

Subscribe
Notify of
45 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago

SOBRE LA LECTURA

Me parece que esta parábola se entiende desde una óptica teológica, más allá de la lógica económica. Se trata de un conflicto que a veces se daba en aquellos ámbitos del cristianismo primitivo donde alternaban judíos y gentiles. El evangelio de Mateo se escribió para una comunidad cristiana compuesta de judíos conversos en su mayoría y creo que el autor trata de dar un mensaje para superar las posibles reminiscencias del orgullo de provenir del “pueblo elegido de Dios”. Los judíos podían sentir que era injusto que una persona cualquiera (¿un “pecador”?, ¿un “pagano”?, ¿alguien más preocupado por sobrevivir que de ir al templo y practicar la Ley?) pudiera creerse salva al creer en y seguir a Jesús, en contraste con los judíos fervorosos que mayoritariamente rechazaron a Jesús, pero que habían sido fieles a todas las exigencias de la ley mosaica (ayunos, ofrendas, oraciones, etc.) a lo largo de muchas generaciones.

De igual modo, un cristiano proveniente del judaísmo, probablemente sentiría que tenía más mérito que un recién llegado a la Iglesia que no fuera judío, es decir, que no hubiera tenido que sufrir todo lo que el pueblo hebreo había tenido que pasar en su dura historia para serle fiel a su Dios. Ahora la Iglesia admitía a la comunidad de los creyentes a todo el que se convirtiera a Jesús, aunque no compartiera esa larga herencia del pueblo judío que exigía una pesada carga de supuesta fidelidad que se manifestaba en cumplir tantos preceptos y costumbres que, como se miraba en los fariseos, con frecuencia derivaba en mero ritualismo pero sin la debida actitud del corazón. Se trataba de algo novedoso y chocante a la vez: la universalidad de la salvación.

Lo mismo podría suceder hoy día en cualquiera de nuestras comunidades, cuando una persona que ha llevado una vida no apegada al bien, de pronto experimenta un cambio radical y se nos une… De esta manera se puede ubicar antes los ojos de Dios al mismo nivel que aquel que tiene años de dar testimonio, de servir a la Iglesia, de trabajar por su parroquia, de privarse de algunos deleites de la cultura moderna… Cualquiera se vería tentado a pensar que es injusto que ahora fuéramos iguales ante Dios.

En el fondo, se trata del problema de que nos molesta que la justicia de Dios no funcione igual que la nuestra, donde el tiempo de servicio y los años de trabajo deberíann causar una diferencia en la escala de méritos de cualquier asociación, club o empresa. ¿Será que nos cuenta comprender que ante la conversión genuina se borra mi valioso “historial laboral” y todos somos iguales, hijos de Dios? El problema puede residir en que un auténtico discípulo del Señor ya no sentiría envidia por tales uniformidades, antes bien se alegraría de que otros se adhieran repentinamente a nuestra fe.

SOBRE LA PINTURA

Personalmente no me siento identificado con el estilo pictórico del impresionismo o del posimpresionismo. Por eso, los cuadros de Van Gogh no son mis favoritos. Sin embargo, al intentar comprender el arte desde las distintas maneras en que se ha expresado y se ha entendido, no puedo negar que Van Gogh era un genio en su tiempo.

Me gusta este cuadro porque refleja una actividad muy natural de la gente que tiene que trabajar y ganarse el pan con el sudor de su frente. Me hace pensar en esa Europa con realidades y obligaciones tan diferentes para los extremos sociales, digamos, la nobleza versus el campesinado. Me atrae, sobre todo, la figura de la mujer que está en primer plano, en el centro de la pintura, donde el pintor con unos simples trazos logra que yo ve perfectamente a una persona que se dobla hacia adelante, para levantar o colocar su canasta, de modo que el cuadro ofrece casi todas las posiciones o movimientos posibles que podrían observarse en una escena real de vendimia.

No sabía que este es el único cuadro que vendió Van Gogh. Pero siempre me ha impresionado que este genio del arte haya muerto en la pobreza, mientras que ahora sus cuadros valen millones de dólares. Es una ironía de la vida. Y aquí no puedo evitar sentir que es injusto.

Bashia Ferrando
Bashia Ferrando
8 months ago

Muy interesante lo que dice. Según Marino Restrepo el problema de los Fariseos es que se quedaron estancados en ser religiosos no más y por eso Nicodemos le fue difícil inicialmente de comprender el espiritualismo que Jesús le trataba de explicar.

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
8 months ago

I like the painting. I like Van Gogh. It is difficult to tell whether it is early morning or late afternoon. The people seem very focused on their work. I believe the man and woman are cooling off in the river. I believe it is a river because of the man’s reflection.

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
8 months ago

The skin colors of the workers seem to reflect I believe the influx of immigrants to France at that time. The woman and the man standing in the river, arriving late in the day, hoping to be hired? How deeply was this parable embedded in Van Gogh’s thoughts?

Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

No creo que Van Gogh estuviera pensando en esta parábola cuando pintó este cuadro.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago

It’s au revoir not adieu. Just off on a quick holiday. Back on Friday.✈️

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Enjoy your R&R. 🌻

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Me too! Enjoy your break.

Polly French
Member
Polly French
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Oh Chazbo! We will miss your input . Enjoy your holiday 🏖

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Safe travelling C.
Aeroplane emoji too – exciting!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
8 months ago

“The evil of murmering” – St Benedict…grumbling about your lot…
I am not sure why, I am never keen on Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings – maybe simply because everyone else loves them? I can be a bit obtuse…
However, this one is fabulous.
Arles was his high-spot and his downfall…

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago

I am drawn to the trees in this painting. I really love how Van Gogh presents trees. These have been shaped by the wind, bending low towards the people as if wanting to give shade, but they are too far away. The people are harvesting grapes, this is real abundance here but yet in the foreground there seems to be water, and the river is full. Van Gogh depicts that constant battle between human need and nature’s caprice. Harvest is all about the timing. There are two figures in the water, a lady seems to have her feet in the river or is standing on a precarious river bank, and the male figure towards the back, what is he doing there?

Van Gogh’s snapshot tells us much about the life and work in this place, how the community had to work together quickly to get the bounty at exactly the right time. They would be no room for shirking. We have lost with our modern farming methods, this sense of needing to work together for the ultimate benefit I hope, of the community.

The reading for me has nothing to do with commerce or any kind of sense of human fairness. ‘Why be envious because I am generous?’ Is the key phrase here. How easy it is to be envious and even bitter when we compare ourselves to others. If we set aside looking at whatever everyone else is doing and work on that unique relationship we are all called to have with God, what would it matter what is happening to others? Thomas a Kempis writes about this in The Imitation of Christ. I inherited my father’s copy of this book and it is now fragile and falling to bits, but it is a real treasure to me.

I remember reading Book III chapter 24 at a time when everyone else’s life seemed easy compared to mine. I won’t write out the whole chapter but only the beginning, which is entitled, Avoiding Curious Inquiry about the Lives of Others.

Here’s how it begins, ‘My child, do not be curious. Do not trouble yourself with idle cares. What matters this or that to you? Follow Me. What is it to you if a man is such and such, if another says this or that? You will not have to answer for others, but you will have to give an account of yourself. Why then, do you meddle in their affairs?’ and it goes on…

I remember the impact these words had on me as a young woman and I have never forgotten them.

Just as a side meandering, I recommend a German film entitled The Lives of Others. It is one of my all time favourites. It is directed by a man with the glorious name of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck- well worth a watch!

Enough from me- have a restful and peaceful Sunday everyone.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Many points to pick up in your discourse today SFG. You always start off with a commentary on the picture which is a good idea, you’re right the trees are very noticeable. I wonder if the man, who is walking on or in the water, is a reference to Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. We know Vincent was very religious. I have never read Thomas à Kempis (note the correct grave accent on the à), well done you.
I have just exited a Whatsapp group talking about current affairs. I found it curiously unsettling as people have such strong views,

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

It must be a river cos of the man’s reflection…but it’s a trifle curious

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Oh now you have me thinking it’s just a road!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

I’ve always thought it was a road, until I read that most art critics call it a river, then I looked more carefully… is the man walking in it to cool off, is the woman gathering snails for supper… ultimately don’t feel it really matters. You’re right about the trees, van Gogh certainly had a thing for trees, from bleak, pollarded willows to glorious almond blossom, to the slightly sinister cypress… He wrote the most amazing letters……must stop!
🌻🌲🌳

Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

A mí me parece que puede ser tanto un río o un camino. Es más probable que sea un río. ¿Tal vez un canal de riego que se derivó para el viñedo? Porque el hombre que está dentro sugiere que no es nada profundo, lo cual encajaría mejor con la tesis del canal de agua de riego que con la del río. También pienso que, si fuera un verdadero río, las tonalidades deberían ser más oscuras y no reflejar con tanta facilidad el reflejo de la luz solar. Puedo sonar herético, pero pienso que este elemento del “río” me resulta el menos logrado del cuadro.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Yes, I no longer involve myself so much in these things either, although sometimes I can’t help myself. I am lucky in that I have a brother I can discuss these things with in a much less hysterical way.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Sorry second reply! Augustine is more accessible than Kempis, but they are both worth reading. Little snippets of gold from centuries ago still so relevant today. I couldn’t do without them!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

The Lives of Others was about the Stasi in East Germany. Is that correct?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Yes, but also much more. One of the best films ever I think. Wonderful.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Seen the Lives of Others. Very good indeed!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

It is an exceptional film. Glad you think so too.

Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

A mí me gustó también cuando la vi, ya hace varios años… “Das Leben der Anderen”

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago

My heart rejoices today to see a painting by van Gogh, one of my most beloved artists. I’m so tempted to cover our walls in his prints!
This vineyard certainly shows us the heat of the day in its use of a particularly vibrant red, and the fierceness of the sun and sky. Also, the lady in the centre carries a parasol – the literal meaning is “a sun-stopper”
– perhaps the vineyard owner’s wife? In that tiny detail we see a tad of the Japanese influence around at the time.. The colours lift the scene beyond the hard work of harvesting to a hymn of joy to the beauty of creation. It was painted from memory in just one day.
Van Gogh was familiar with poverty and brutally hard work, which is the context of today’s gospel. But Jesus takes us beyond the physical to deal with the justice of the situation, and with jealousy. We see people who seem to have an easier life than us, or are “luckier” in some way, and we suffer. Nowadays, equality and the enforcement of it, is the rule, but it’s almost impossible to fulfil, since perceptions of what is just varies with the individual. So in the gospel, the early workers react badly when they realise they’re all going to be paid the same.
The master of the vineyard is compassionate and fair: He went out at all hours to employ more workers. He offered the early birds what they initially considered a fair wage. He paid at the end of the day. Fr Patrick describes God’s attitude to us as “divine generosity available through boundless grace”, so He is way beyond fair, He does not give us what we deserve, d.g. In the language of today, however “late we are to the party” His love and generosity will meet us. The early workers were jealous, feeling they had been short-changed, the late-comers were grateful for the owner’s generosity, hence the first shall be last…and the last first….
That’s plenty enough! With greetings to all, and prayers for the coming week, especially for those facing troubles of whatever sort. 🌻🙏

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Greetings to you Noelle! I shall be bidding everyone adieu later this morning!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Adieu or au revoir?

Severino Filho
Member
Severino Filho
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Ótima reflexão, uma excelente explicação resumida que nos fazem meditar e concordar com o seu pensamento.
Gratidão!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  Severino Filho

Obrigada, Severino. 🌻

Polly French
Member
Polly French
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Thank you Noelle.. such an extensive and thought-provoking reflection. Thanks for taking the time to share your talents. Isn’t it great, God is not just fair, if he was, our reward might not be too bountiful! Thank God HE is beyond fair! 🙏

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago
Reply to  Polly French

Yes, Polly, I thank Him indeed, whole-heartedly. 🌻

Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

@Noelle Clemens: Me parece que lograste plantear el enlace perfecto entre lectura y pintura (ya que no se trata de una relación directa).

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
8 months ago

Gracias, Carlos, muy amable.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago

Maybe I’m not a very good capitalist but what the vineyard owner pays his workers seems quite fair to me. And of course this does still happen in our modern society in that some workers are paid less for doing the same job; principally women but also anyone who is less effective at selling their skills than another.
The real message of the parable is surely that it is never too late to come to the vineyard, this world in which we all lead our lives, and work with others for the building of God’s Kingdom.

Bashia Ferrando
Bashia Ferrando
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Good morning, beautifully put Chazbo 🙏

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago

I gave your comment a like!
Sunday greetings to you Bashia.

Bashia Ferrando
Bashia Ferrando
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

🙏

Polly French
Member
Polly French
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I like this extra meaning Chazbo that it is never too late and that we arenot penalised for our tardiness or whatever prevented us.. all so reassuring

Carlos Ortez-Moreira
Member
Carlos Ortez-Moreira
8 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

De acuerdo, @Chazbo M, el dueño de la viña no es un buen capitalista, no lo es porque no quiere serlo, no está jugando según las reglas de la economía de mercado. Es la diferencia propia de alguien que antepone la conciencia social y los derechos humanos por encima de las ganancias. Ese el tipo de empresario cristiano, aquel que prioriza los valores y la ética por encima del negocio.

Guy Van Holsbeke
Member
Guy Van Holsbeke
8 months ago

facilement nous faisons une distinction entre les bons et ‘les mauvais’; montrons aussi notre générosité de coeur pour ces derniers…

Antonio Portelli
Member
Antonio Portelli
8 months ago

Thank you Fr Patrick. As for the above question – Yes, I do like the Gospel reading and art reflection. Every morning I look forward them! Since joining, I my appreciation for what is art has grown considerably !

Nik
Member
Nik
8 months ago

Volledig mee eens.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
8 months ago

That’s an excellent result Antonio!

Polly French
Member
Polly French
8 months ago

Moi aussi Antonio

Readings related to Matthew 20:1-16

8 March 2023

Matthew 20:17-28

They will condemn the Son of Man to death

25 July 2023

Matthew 20:20-28

Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?

11 March 2020

Matthew 20:17-28

Jesus was going up to Jerusalem

19 August 2020

Matthew 20:1-16

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

Join our community

In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: 

The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Our goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith.

CONNECT WITH US

Join over 70,000 people who receive our daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection

Skip to content