Today we hear Our Lord tell the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, (Matt 20:1-16) in which the workers fail to understand why those who worked just one hour received the same wages as those who had worked all day. In other words they were envious.
Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins – deadly because it can cause many other vices such as calumny, slander and even murder. Very often, due to Original Sin, we want what someone else has even though we don’t really need it. The example in today’s Gospel can be quite hard for us to accept because it does seem unfair that the workers who arrived for the last hour should get the same pay as those who had worked hard all day in the hot sun. And the landowner asked the question, “Why be envious because I am generous?”
Basically God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes we might think, “Why does God allow someone who doesn’t need the money to win the lottery even though I need it much more?” Perhaps God knows it wouldn’t be good for us and could cause us to lose our soul. “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mark 8:36). In the end we simply have to admit that God gives some people more goods than others and that this is in His Providence.
St John Vianney (1786-1859) said that whoever is envious is proud, because when we desire something God has given to someone else and not to us, we are saying we know better than God. So we have to try and remain humble seeking God’s glory and not our own. St John Vianney also suggests, “if we are tempted to thoughts of envy against our neighbour, far from letting him see it by our cold manner, we must go out of our way to be friendly and do him any service that lies in our power.” The words of Our Lord spring to mind, “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Desiring the things of this world can lead us into sin, so let us cultivate a desire for the things of Heaven, because this is the only thing that will bring us eternal joy.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC