25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
NO JEALOSY IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
This legendary story is well known. Yet, it is worth repeating. Once a person went through a rigorous process of penance and prayer to please God and he succeeded. God appeared and said, “What is your wish, my dear?” The person prayed, “Lord! Kindly promise me that you would grant whatever I ask for and whenever I ask for!” God also in his generosity agreed and said, “All right, you will always get whatever you wish for, but one condition: your neighbour will get double the amount of what you get.” And the person went home, happy.
Next morning, he wished for a palatial house. BANG! He got one, and his neighbour got two! Then, he wished for a luxury car. He got that also. Again, his neighbour got two luxury cars! Desires are self-feeding. So, they multiplied manifold in his case too. He wished for more and more. The gracious God granted all his wishes. He became very prosperous. But the neighbour becomes twice as prosperous as he is! And this filled him with jealousy and envy.
Poor man had sleepless nights and asked nothing from God because the other one gets more than him. After sometime God appeared to him and asked “Are you alright? Is there anything else I can do for you?” He said “Yes! Lord! take one of my eyes away and let my neighbour loose both his eyes.” Saying so he went and had peaceful rest.
Friends, it may be an imaginative and funny story. But it addresses one of the common emotional problems we have called ‘jealousy’. Most of us who are sitting here must have had an experience of this in our lives sometime or the other. Often jealous people doesn’t like a person because he/she possesses some thing they imagines to be good that they don’t have? They feel ’sick’ whenever they see him/her; hear people talking about him/her. And by their behaviour they try to downgrade, avoid, or defame him/her, feel happy when he/she suffers a loss or is in a difficulty. I don’t know whether you have come across such people or not. And the gospel today tells us that there is no place for such jealousy and envy in the kingdom of God.
Look at the gospel story and observe the reaction of those who came in the first hour for work. They got the money they were promised. Yet we see in them a feeling of sadness, hurt, anxiety, anger and extreme rage. These are all the manifestations of that single emotion called jealousy that makes the people to stop thinking. They storm together as a group and complain to the master of the vineyard saying “It is unfair?” What is unfair here? Is it that they were not paid what they were promised? No they were paid what they were promised. Then, what is it that hurts them? It is that the others are paid as much they are? This hurts them. They feel cheated and exploited: Which is not true. They were not cheated because they were promised one Denarius and were paid one Denarius. And the salary for a day’s hard work is one Denarius. So no cheating or exploitation is involved here. What is involved is the pure generosity of the master. And what they are unable to digest here is the generosity of the master towards those people whom they think as non-deserving. Those who came at the eleventh hour.
Now, this story is aimed at Pharisees and Sadducees who were jealous to see the tax-collectors and sinners entering into the kingdom of God and enjoying the company of Jesus. When Jesus extended the salvation or the invitation to enter the kingdom of God to the gentiles and sinners too they were not able to digest it. It is like the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son complaining “We have been with you obeying every letter of the law and worshipping you and you treat us equal to the ones who went away from you and returned back at the last hour. And they enjoy as many privileges as we do. No it is unfair!” Can we teach God what is fair and what is unfair? No! we cannot. But that’s what these people are trying to do.
So Jesus tells them “In the kingdom of God there are no division like first class, business class and economy class as we have in our trains and aero-planes. There is only one class or group; I.e multitude of people worshipping God with one voice all the time.” Believe me, Martyrs and Saints who dedicated and gave their life for Christ and sinners who committed all sorts of crimes and repented at the last minute of their life like the repentant thief on the cross will be in the same group enjoying the same privileges. And the saints never envy this.
This is what St. Augustine says in his commentary on this gospel. There may different degrees of holiness in this life. Some may shine as bright as stars in their holiness better than others here on earth but eternal life is same for all. And saints are those who rejoice in their luck or in their holiness rather than weep over the good luck of others. In fact as Jesus said there will be a great rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety nine righteous ones. If we are not careful with this vice called envy or jealousy it destroys peace and harmony in our hearts, families and in the society. And it may turn the church which is suppose to be the kingdom of God here on earth into hell.
Fr. Showreelu Simham