Choosing Generosity, Not Envy!

The Gospel reading of Matthew 20:1-16 is one of my favorite parables to pray, reflect on, and meditate on because it beautifully expressed God‘s generosity and attentiveness to our needs. Perhaps in a day and age when we think we deserve more than what is given to us, I think many of us tend to likely think that He is not fair and we should get more than what is here now. This parable reminds us that God is just. Take a moment to read it if you have a chance… Faith teaches us that divine justice is far different from our own comprehension of what it means to be fair because His focus is not just on the scope of immediate, temporary, or worldly hedonism and its here-and-now gratification desires. He cares for us in ways that are beyond our imagination, comprehension, and expectation… not only for this life but in the eternal life to come, too! That is why it takes a personal, humble, trusting, and loving willingness to embrace His providential care for us. First, we have to get ourselves acquainted with the custom and reality of the time that the Lord was living in order to appreciate His loving attentiveness. Unlike our first-world, post-modern, American society where the unemployed could get government assistance and helps if they are out of a job, people back in the past will go without as day laborers if they do not get hired. As a matter of fact, many day laborers and farmhands in our very own country are experiencing a similar situation right here and now! They only get paid when they work… so the Lord was very attentive to that reality. Not only did He call the fittest and knowledgeable in the beginning, but He also came back several times to the marketplace throughout the day to call those who are left by the wayside. As a matter of fact, He even called the unfits, forgotten, and abandoned at the last hour because He knew that they would have nothing to fall back on if they are not hired. He paid everyone a just wage so they could have something on the table to share and eat with their loved ones. Imagine the desperation and sadness that existed among those who were not chosen! Yet, our God knew, understood, and called them, too. Not everyone understood His intention though. Those who were hired before because of their skills or fittingness were jealous of those who got hired at the last hour since they think they deserved more. They did not understand that He paid them a just living wage to support their families, had pities, and cared for those who were forgotten by the wayside, too. In many ways, we tend to think the same thing at times. For many reasons, too many of us think that we deserve more because we say our prayers, go to Mass, and keep our faith. We often demanded and expected God to somehow favor us by showering us with what we have asked for! With that attitude, many of us often end up bitter, angry, resentful, and unhappy because we get fixated on our self-centered judgment, standards, and demands. We let our pitiful envy eats us alive because we always compare ourselves with what we do not have, yet being greedy and covet what people have. Nevertheless, what is ironic is that envy never stops… It is like an endless pit that eats us alive because we always look for the things that we do not possess and like to covet other people’s goods. It is a sad life when one is never content with the blessings that have been bestowed upon them by the Almighty. Envy makes us petty because we always worry about ourselves and are bitter about what others seem to have more than us! It kills our joy because we are never content with what we have been given from God‘s own generosity and loving care. Even if we have a lot, we will always think that we need more because we can never appreciate how much we have… and that is a pitiful and sad life to live. If we are always envious, we can never be generous in sharing our gifts of talent, time, and treasure with others because we are always worrying about possessing and taking things for ourselves. The people who are envious are often the people who are never happy, push people away, are negative in words and actions, and tend to be self-loathing because they cannot see what God has blessed them as gifts to be shared as people of faith. We can be the richest people in town that has little to share because we are filled with envy and insecurities, or the most modest people who are rich with love in sharing what we have with the simplicity of heart. My mother often tells the story of how my paternal grandmother was one of God‘s loving examples in her life. At the time when she felt alone and was going through a hard time living in the world as a married young woman (while my father was in Communist prison), she felt that my paternal grandmother cared enough to be a mother to her. After the Viet Nam War, she made little money as an accountant. The little extra that she had gone to purchase train or bus tickets and buy my father small portions of food when she went to visit him in prison (since the Communists did not care much about their prisoners). She was literally living month by month while trying to care for her husband who was incarcerated. She felt lonely and abandoned since not a lot of people were willing to help her. Nevertheless, my grandmother always told her to pay a visit before she went to visit my father. Since my grandmother was blind, she would ask my mother to look around to see if there is anyone around first. After that, she would slowly unroll a little amount of money hidden in her simple set of elastic-band Vietnamese-style pants. Even though she had little, she saved up a little bit so my mother could have a little something to buy my father some sweets. My mother was so touched by that caring gestures, and that is why she told me she lovingly called my grandmother, “Mother.” The amount of money was probably nothing, but it meant everything to my mother because she found in my grandmother a loving mother and a great example of Christian charity and kindness. My grandmother was one of the motivations that helped my mother to personally sought to become a Catholic while waiting for my father. We often think that we need money, to be rich, or well off in order to be charitable to others. However, charity is not about how much we can give! As a matter of fact, true love is never about the quantifiable amount since it is intimately based on the quality of loving care. We receive and give from the heart because we recognize how much God has been generous toward us. We become generous in giving ourselves to one another when we recognize how much God has loved us! Gratitude makes us generous, genuine, and self-giving because it is never about the quantity but the quality of what comes from the heart. So, let us ask ourselves whether we truly believe, allow, and open ourselves up to His generosity and guidance beyond our imaginations. Are we willing to let go of the comfort zone and egocentric things that we have built for ourselves in order to follow Him? Are willing to let Him tell us who we truly are or are still scared and trying our best to become someone that our society or our very own fragile ego would like us to be? Are we willing to embark on a journey of self-emptying, sacrificial, and genuine discipleship in following where the Master trod? These are hard questions, but they are questions that require us to truly be true to ourselves, be firm in our integrity and Christian values, and be willing to follow Him at all costs. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid but allow ourselves to be firmly rooted in Christ, as well as to humbly walk with Him in love. Do not be afraid to allow the Almighty to fill our childlike faith and trusting heart with wonders and awes that are beyond our imagination! Perhaps we might not always see and sense Him at work at times, but our God is wonderful, faithful, generous, and loving beyond anything that we can imagine so do not be afraid of letting Him love us simply and beyond what we can grasp, understand, or comprehend at the moment. Even though the journey might be hard and challenging at times, it is truly worthwhile and life-changing because He is ever-present and ever-faithful.