“Why be envious because I am generous?” The story of the workers in the vineyard is not about paying a fair wage (Matt 20:1-16). The parable is about envy. Every worker got the agreed payment. The horrible aspect of envy is that it is a negative reaction to some goodness or success that another person enjoys. It is a poisonous growth that draws its energy out of something that is good and beautiful. The workers who did only one hour received a full day’s pay. The generosity of the landowner should have been admired rather than becoming the subject of grumbling. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. These are vices which are like poisoned plants growing out of good soil. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists some of the poisoned fruits of envy. “From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.” Quite a juicy list of badness. Envy is a root that poisons the mind and heart.
Curing the poison
One cure for envy is to appreciate what we have received and to accept that the good fortune of another person is my good fortune too, since we are all brothers and sisters in God’s family. Another help to counteract envy is to replace boredom with a sense of wonder. Open your eyes and ears to the wonders of God’s generosity. Today’s First Reading tells us to turn our minds to our God who is rich in forgiving, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks. Yes, the heavens are as high above earth as my thoughts are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.”
A lovely way to end each day is to switch off the invasive distractions of television, radio or computer so as to allow yourself the gift of a silent space. Reflect on the day now ending. Focus on the nice moments, some glimpse of beauty in a person, in nature, in some happening. These are gifts from God that often go unnoticed. Focus with gratitude on one gift for each day. Gratitude is one of the most healing powers in life.
The American writer, John Shea, said that the best preparation for heaven is the capacity for surprise. Whoever belongs to the kingdom of God has eyes open to goodness and ears that are deaf to grumbling. One is constantly amazed and never bored. The soul is full of wonder and praise. Why be envious when God is generous to others? “His goodness shall follow me always, to the end of my days.”
The thoughts of God are as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth. So, let us pray.
Open our eyes, Lord, to the wonders and beauty you have given to the world around us.
Expand our hearts with the ability to rejoice at the good fortune or success of others.
Remove the poison in us that causes us to speak about others in an unchristian way.
We pray for people who are seeking employment. May the door of opportunity open up for them.
(Add prayers for any local, personal or topical intention)
O God, the giver of every good gift, we thank you for all that your generosity has given us. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.