They Thought They Would Receive More

(Homily for Twenty-Fifth Sunday - Year A)

Bottom line: When we compare ourselves to others - thinking we should receive more - we become resentful and envious. When we focus on God's generosity, we become joyful stewards.

Today's Gospel of the Vineyard Workers made me think about my brother-in-law. Alex was a widower when he married my sister twenty-some years ago. Recently, he said to me, "Fr. Phil, pretty soon I will be celebrating my fiftieth anniversary." Puzzled, I said, "But, Alex, you and Melanie haven't been married that long."

"No," he said, "but I am also counting the years I was married to my first wife." It turns out that Alex looks at his years of marriage as years of service - and he wants credit for every one.

The vineyard works who started at the beginning of the day were a bit like my brother-in-law. They wanted due credit for every hour they worked. The irony here is that if the owner would have paid them first and sent them on their way, there would have been no problem. They would have been happy with their day's wage. The problem came when they compared themselves to others: "Hey, those guys who worked one hour got a full day's wage. I worked twelve hours. I should get twelve days wages." They thought they would receive more.

When we compare ourselves to others, we easily fall into envy and resentment. I had a strange experience of that when I was listening to an interview of a presidential candidates. The interviewer asked him how he would define "middle class." The candidate said that the middle class includes people earning up to $150,000 a year. All of a sudden I was thinking, "One hundred fifty thousand dollars. I am far from making that." I stopped and I had to ask myself: Where did that thought came from? I'm a priest. For my needs I am receiving plenty, especially when I consider the poor in Peru - and in my own parish.

The devil wants us to compare ourselves to those who have received something we didn't get. He tries to fill us with resentment, anger and envy. God, on the other hand, wants us to reflect on His generosity - how much he has given us. And to remember the poor - those who have so much less and need our help. If I can put it this way: The devil wants us to stew; God wants Stewardship. One brings misery, the other brings joy.

God will give each person proper credit. He will honor my brother-in-law for his years of faithful marriage to my sister - and to his first wife whom he cared for in her final illness. None of us need worry whether God will give us our due. Rather, we should focus on his generosity. He gives much more that we could ever deserve - or ask for.

To conclude I would like to restate my main point: When we compare ourselves to others - thinking we should receive more - we become resentful and envious. When we focus on God's generosity, we become joyful stewards.

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General Intercessions for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Twenty-fifth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Finding Your Place Week 7 (Summing Up)
2011: The Sole Question
2008: They Thought They Would Receive More
2005: Day Laborers
2002: Why Do You Stand Idle?
1999: Are You In or Not?

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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