JUDGES 9: 6 – 15
At that time: All the citizens of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem. When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you men of Shechem, that God may listen to you. The trees once went forth to anoint a king over them; and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ “But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my fatness, by which gods and men are honoured, and go to sway over the trees?’ “And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come you, and reign over us.’ “But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to sway over the trees?’ “And the trees said to the vine, ‘Come you, and reign over us.’ “But the vine said to them, Shall I leave my wine which cheers gods and men, and go to sway over the trees?’ “Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘Come you, and reign over us.’ “And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’
The Word of the Lord.
Psalm 21: 2 – 3, 4 – 5, 6 – 7 (R.) 2a
R/. In your strength, O Lord, the king rejoices.
In your strength, O Lord, the king rejoices;
how greatly your salvation makes him glad!
You have granted him his heart’s desire;
You have not withheld the prayer of his lips. R/.
You came to meet him with blessings of prosperity;
you have set on his head a crown of pure gold.
He asked you for life and this you have given:
Days that will last from age to age. R/.
By your saving help great is his glory;
You have bestowed upon him majesty and splendour;
You have granted him blessings for ever,
Made him rejoice with the joy of your presence. R/.
Hebrews 4: 12
The word of the Lord is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
“Do you begrudge my generosity?”
MATTHEW 20: 1 – 16a
At that time: Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ “He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ “And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
[4:17 am, 23/08/2023] Mr Takaona: GOSPEL REFLECTION: Overcoming Envy
August 23, 2023
Going out about five o’clock, he 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.” (Matthew 20:6–7)
These are very generous words spoken by the landowner. As the parable explains, this landowner hired workers for his vineyard early in the morning, and then again at nine o’clock, noon, three o’clock and finally at five o’clock. But at the end of the day, he paid them all the same daily wage as if they had all been working since early morning. The ones hired first were upset thinking it was unfair that those who worked just an hour were paid the same wage as they were. But the landowner concludes, “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?” God, in His mercy, is generous beyond comprehension. But we, as fallen humans, are constantly examining whether we are getting our fair share and comparing ourselves to others. We tend to want more and more and easily become envious when we see others succeed or receive blessings that we do not have. For example, if someone is more popular than us on social media, or drives a nicer car, or has a bigger home, or goes on an expensive vacation, we often tend to notice with a sort of sorrow that we do not have what they do. And that is envy.
The cure for envy is wholehearted generosity. Not just generosity with our money but generosity with our affections and our ability to rejoice in the blessings that others receive. For example, if someone were to tell you that they were going on a nice vacation next month to a place you always wanted to go, how would you react? You might jokingly say, “Wow, I’m jealous!” Jealousy can quickly turn into envy, which is a form of sorrow over the blessings another has that you do not. And that sorrow over the blessings of another can subsequently turn to anger.
These workers in the vineyard who worked all day and received the same amount as those who worked only one hour could have responded by congratulating the later workers and could have even jokingly said, “Lucky you, I wish I would have shown up at five o’clock!” But instead, they grumbled and tried to interfere with the generosity of 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.” Again, this is envy, in that their sorrow over the generosity of the landowner led them to try to interfere with the blessing the others received.
Whenever you notice this form of unholy sorrow within you, take notice. It means that you lack a selfless generosity toward others. And if you see God blessing another in spiritual riches, try to generously rejoice in that. Offer praise and thanks to God for His goodness. Don’t dwell on yourself and dismiss every temptation to compare. In many ways, everyone of us is represented by those who worked only one hour and received the full daily wage. This is because we could never earn the grace of salvation. The one and only reason we are able to receive the gift of eternal salvation and every other grace given to us by God is because God is infinitely generous. Therefore, the goodness and generosity of God must be our constant focus, and we must rejoice in that generosity when it is given to us and when it is also given to others.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have toward envy. Think about the blessings that others have been given that you have not. Sincerely look at your interior reaction to that and pray that God will grant you the gift of being able to be generous in your rejoicing in those blessings. Every blessing given by God must be the cause of our joy, no matter if those blessings are bestowed upon us or upon others.
My most generous Lord, You bestow Your blessings upon all in superabundance. When I witness the ways that others are blessed by You, help me to foster a sincere gratitude for all that they have received. Help me truly rejoice in the many ways You bless all Your people. Free me from envy, dear Lord, so that I am not burdened down by that ugly sin. Jesus, I trust in You.