Jealousy & Greed kill us … happiness, instead, comes from appreciating, contributing and helping
Before we reflect too deeply on the Gospel, it might help to set the scene a little: Israel had big economic problems. The land owners often went to other countries for a better life and rented out their properties to produce income. People were struggling, like these days in Kenya: survival was hard. So, it was not uncommon for the workers to grab what they could.
The First Reading and Gospel both have a similar plot (story outline). A vineyard is provided with all that is necessary for the people to make a living and give something back. Then laziness or greed enters the picture and nothing is given back. So, finally, the people are kicked out and new people are given a chance.
When we connect the harsh economic conditions, we can have some sympathy with the reactions of people but, as St Paul says in his Reading: “Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
This is a helpful guide for us. When struggling, the temptation is to feel sorry for ourselves, or jealous of what others have: and then we commit sin while thinking, “my life is not fair!”
These feelings are kind of normal and natural. In fact, they are not even sinful until we act upon them. Feelings come and go; but it is what we do with the feelings that is moral/sinful.
The Gospel is more gentle than the Gospel, and teaches us a few things about God:
1) God is generous, providing what we need = resources, opportunity and guidance;
2) God wants to trust people with the work of Creation= giving inclusion and dignity.
3) God bears patiently with people in all their sinning: gives us a chance to change.
4) God will eventually pass judgment on us: not because God has lost patience, but because our sinful behaviour hurts other people, including ourselves.
Work, and working together as a Community, is an essential part of maintaining good mental health. Many wealthy nations suffer high rates of mental health because they work alone, live alone and are trying to be successful above others, or for selfish material greed.
So, how can we overcome the temptations to be jealous or greedy? I believe there are three key steps to take:
1) every day, take time to count our blessings: to thank God for what we have;
It is too easy to always be thinking of challenges/ desires, but let first count our blessings!
2) help people in need around us – at least monthly or even weekly. Let me share again, the response of one Oblate youth member who started handing out food to the hungry people in Mathare Slum: on his way home, he sent a message: this morning I woke up as usual thinking I am poor; but after today, I see I’m rich, compared to the poor people in Mathare.
Helping others, even if they are not materially poor, helps put our issues into perspective: as people in Australia sometimes share their challenges with me, they finish by saying “but these are first world problems; nothing compared to the poor people in Africa!” So, simply by knowing me, and the challenges people face here, the other person feels better.
Visiting sick people in Hospital or elderly people in Aged care homes, is also a great way to help us appreciate the freedom we have: able to walk, run, play physical games or drive my car where I want to. One of the pains of growing old is losing our independence: depending on others to move around.
3) make real contributions to where we live, work and play. People who give little are usually the people who complain the most. Contributing our time, energy, talents and even money, makes us feel like we belong and gives us good mental health.
It’s a simple but tough message today: If we cooperate and work together, we will be successful! It’s true in families, the workplace and the street community where we live.
Finally, if you feel sad or depressed, follow the check list above: count your blessings, help someone nearby, and do something extra to contribute to your family, your workplace, etc.
Let’s not frustrate God by being lazy and/or greedy.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI