From Envy to Joy

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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, he 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, 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.’ 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 the first will be last.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, I look to you with gratitude for all that I have received and for all that I can to offer, little though it may be. Lord, I humbly ask for this grace: Help me to rejoice when others receive good things.  


Encountering Christ:


  1. Gratitude: In this passage the workers became jealous when they saw that others who worked a shorter shift received the same daily wage. This passage is an invitation to grow in personal gratitude for the work we are called to do. It is a blessing to have a job, to be chosen for a task and to contribute to a cause. Work is gratifying, even though it can also be tiring and hard. In the words of St. John Paul II, “Work is a good thing for man–a good thing for his humanity–because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being”(Laborem Exercens). Let us thank God for the work he places in our hands and accomplish it to the best of our ability for his glory.
  2. Freedom from Comparison: Our hearts can easily move from gratitude to indignance when someone receives more than we judge is his or her due. Let’s look at the situation of the latecomer to the vineyard. Did he spend anxious hours looking for work before he was hired? Was he passed by earlier because he was older, handicapped, or dealing with a sick child at home? We can never fully comprehend the plight of another. In addition to personal gratitude for our own situation, we are called to have empathy for others. Comparing ourselves to others blocks our ability to see things from their perspective—the basic requirement for empathy.
  3. Rejoicing in Another’s Good Fortune: Blessed be God, who distributes gifts according to a purpose (see Romans 12:6). We can always trust God’s good judgment. Only when we are firmly grounded in the knowledge that we are loved by God can we truly rejoice at another’s good fortune. If we labor all day as faithful disciples in his vineyard, blessed be God. If we find our meaning and purpose in God later in life, blessed be God. Either way, our reward for a job well done far surpasses our human efforts. We will never deserve heaven. It is God’s free gift given to those who know, love, and serve him in this world.


Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, I am grateful for the ability to work in your vineyard, spreading the good news to the souls you place in my life. Please help me to grow in compassion and empathy for those in need of conversion. I want to be your emissary in this suffering world and reach out to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of others. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will practice gratitude for the work you have given me to do.  


For Further Reflection: Laborem Exercens, by St. John Paul II.


Written by Renee Pomarico.

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