We Are Worth More Than We Can Imagine
Deacon Patrick Constantino | Photos courtesy Dcn. Pat Constantino
The Lord Be With You! A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (20:1-16a).
Jesus told his disciples this parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and first will be last.” The Gospel of the Lord.
Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. But only say the word and my soul will be healed! Matthew 8:8. Our Lord who knows what we are worth! What are you worth?
Now I’m not talking about your net worth, not talking about the total dollars you would have if you liquidated all of your assets. That’s not what I mean. I’m talking about you—the person, the man or woman you are. What are you worth?
I’m guessing many of us put our own value as being higher than that of most other people. And we usually measure that value—that worth—not on one single factor but on many. I’m guessing most of us feel we are somewhat nicer or kinder than the average person on the street. And we probably think we have a much better sense of humor than most other people. That goes without saying. And other people don’t drive as well as we do, and don’t have as much common sense, and aren’t as trustworthy or responsible or hardworking as us. And I’m pretty sure none of us would ever consider going to our boss and saying, “You should really pay me less. I’m not worth the wage you are giving me.” Yes, many of us, maybe most of us, consider ourselves to be worth more than most people we know.
But what are we worth to God?
We just heard one of those Gospel passages that makes us want to shout at the top of our lungs, “That’s not fair!” We heard how everyone got paid the same even though they all worked different amounts of time. And that really doesn’t sit well with us, doesn’t seem right. Doesn’t seem just.
And if we were one of those workers who put in the most time yet got the same as those who started much later, and worked much less, we would not be okay with that! Not for a second. “What kind of crazy, illogical operation are you running here?” we might think to ourselves. But that’s a really big IF.
• If we were the ones putting in a full day.
• If we had done the most work.
• If we deserved more.
• If others didn’t measure up to us.
This is one of those Bible stories where the majority of us probably only see ourselves as one character in the story. In fact, it might seem obvious—given we often have somewhat inflated images of ourselves. Who are we in the story? Well, I know who we want to be, know who we hope we are. We want to convince ourselves we are those laborers who worked the whole day—and therefore deserve the most, at least in our eyes, from our point of view. We want to believe others don’t quite measure up to us, we are the good guys, the ones who are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
The hard truth, my friends, is we are only one group in the story. That much is true. But it’s not the group we want to be in. You see, each of us, in our own unique way, is actually one of the workers who put in less than a full day—is a worker who doesn’t really deserve the wage the landowner chose to bless us with.
How can that be? Well, it’s really not that difficult to see when you think about it. We each give less than a full day’s work every time we cheat someone or act unjustly or fail to be generous. And we give less than a full day’s work every time we put someone down or gossip or treat someone with disrespect. We give less than a full day’s every time we turn our back on someone in need or fail to act with compassion or fail to forgive or fail to reach out to people who are lonely or on the margins. And we give less than a full day’s work every time we do wrong by a spouse or a child or a parent.
Put simply—we fail to give a full day’s work every time we fail to love, that is, every time we sin!
Don’t deserve a full day’s pay? That’s not someone else! That’s you! And that’s me!
And so we should rejoice we have a God who doesn’t give us what we deserve. We should be eternally grateful God showers good things upon us not because we have earned those things but because that’s just who He is—a God of infinite mercy and generosity and compassion. We should be glad our God only exceeds the Love we are hoping for and never comes up short in that department. In other words, we should treasure the fact, the deep truth, that our God acts in ways we find it so hard to act.
What are we worth? Or rather, what are we worth to God?
In a certain sense, we are worth everything to Him! The Cross shows us that! The larger question is–What is He worth to us?
God is Good? Ti Apo ket nasayaat!
All the time? Nga kankanayon!
Jesus, we trust in You! Amen! Apo Jesus, agtalekak kenka! Amen!
On July 1, 2022, Patrick Constantino retired as a Deacon for the Roman Catholic Church in Hawai‘i, after serving for thirty-five years and becoming on June 18, 1987, the first Deacon of Filipino ancestry for the Roman Catholic Church in Hawai‘i. For twenty-two years, he served as Administrator at Holy Rosary Church in Pā‘ia, St. Rita Church in Ha‘ikū and St. Gabriel Church in Ke‘anae. His last assignment before retiring was at St. Joseph Church in Makawao.
Prior to his ordination, Constantino was in government—first appointed in 1966 as Assistant Sergeant of Arms by the Speaker of the House Elmer F. Cravalho. When Cravalho became Maui’s first Mayor, Constantino became his Executive Assistant—the first of Filipino ancestry. Later, Constantino became the first County Treasurer of Filipino ancestry and the first County Grants Administrator and Risk Manager of Filipino ancestry.
Constantino is married to his lovely wife Corazon for sixty-two years. They are blessed with four children, eleven grandchildren, and fifteen great grandchildren.