When Others Are Blessed

Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

•Is 55:6-9
•Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
•Phil 1:20C-24, 27A
•Mt 20:1-16A

By Marc Massery

Have you ever been envious of the blessings that others receive? Then the Gospel for this Sunday is for you. 

Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who goes out at dawn and finds several workers in the marketplace. He agrees to pay them the usual daily wage for their work in his vineyard. 

At 9 a.m., the owner goes out and finds more workers idle in the marketplace and asks them to work in his vineyard, too. He says, “And I will give you what is just” (Mt 20:4). He does the same at noon, at 3 p.m., and even at 5 p.m. At around 6 p.m., the end of the work day, the owner of the vineyard gives everyone, even those who only worked an hour, a full day’s wage. Those who worked all day complain, because they figure that they should receive more than those who hardly worked. The owner says:

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 (Mt 20:13-16). 

Aside from beginning work at different hours, there’s one other main difference between those who started work at dawn and those who came late. The first workers came to an agreement with the landowner for a specific amount of money for their labor. As their conduct later showed, their main concern was getting the most money they could out of their work. 

Those who came late, on the other hand, never negotiated a contract. The owner simply told them that he would pay them “what is just.” Now, those waiting “idle” in the marketplace weren’t being lazy. For whatever reason, they had had trouble finding work that day. If a day laborer couldn’t find work on a certain day, he and his family were likely to go hungry that evening. So when the owner of the vineyard asked them to work, they were so desperate that they didn’t care how little it might pay. They surrendered that decision to the owner of the vineyard. 

So when the landowner pays the day laborers who came late more than they deserved, he likely saved them and their families from going hungry. Instead of being happy that the families of those who came late to work wouldn’t starve and being thankful for their own day's wage, the original workers acted selfishly by complaining. This parable shows that a good Christian shouldn’t concern himself with calculating his own reward so much as he ought to concern himself with serving God and others selflessly. The Christian life is a paradox: Those who prioritize their own reward frequently lose it, and those who forget themselves and their reward often find it. 

Saint Faustina once wrote, "I will hide from people’s eyes whatever good I am able to do so that God Himself may be my reward" (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 255). 

When we make God Himself our reward, we won’t have any reason to become envious when others receive His blessings. When we realize how much we already have, how much God has freely bestowed upon us, we’ll find envying others silly and selfish. 

Of course, we are only human, and we frequently fall short. So when you find yourself envying the blessings that others receive, ask the Lord for the grace of humility. Ask Him to help you realize how much He has already given to you, and you’ll find it easier to rejoice in the blessings of others.  

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Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash

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