Are you envious because I am generous?

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23 August 2017


“Are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:15).

This question comes from today’s Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the labourers in the vineyard.

I think we could probably all tell our own version and experience of this parable. We know people who, in our not so humble opinion, neither earned nor deserved what they got; a job, a promotion, a raise, recognition, happiness, success.

And so it is for the workers who laboured in the vineyard all day. For, indeed, at first sight, it does seem unfair that all the workers in this parable were to receive the same wage.
As he so often did during his public ministry, Jesus turns customary rules and expectations upside down. Jesus exposes the canker of envy in the human heart and vividly illustrates the mercy and generosity of God – generosity so unstinting that it confounds not only our logic but also our sense of justice.
We like fairness, I think, because it gives us some assurance of order, predictability, control, and hierarchy.

Gore Vidal, an American writer and public intellectual stated, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies”. I don’t know about you but this sometimes rings home for me. What a struggle it is to silence that nagging “What about me!” voice and rejoice in others good fortune.

Although it’s a struggle, it is important that we try to get past our human tendency to interpret another’s gain as our loss. The fact is, no matter how long we work or how hard we try, we can never earn God’s love or his salvation through our own efforts. God freely loves us. He is eager to welcome all of us into his kingdom – sinners and latecomers as well as the upstanding and hardworking. Unreasonable? Outrageous? That’s the extravagant nature of divine mercy.


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