Philippians 1:20-24, 27
"Are you envious because I am generous. "
I am sure that we have all had a smile and a chuckle at watching two youngsters arguing over the fact that one received more candy than the other. "That’s not fair!" Well, the complainer is looking more at the amount of candy given rather than being gracious and grateful just for the actual generosity shown to them.
The gospel for today’s Mass has a parable about a landowner who is criticized by his workers. They have put in a full day’s work. The landowner had spotted other men who were not working and offers them a job working alongside his regular crew. This offer is made several times with the resulting time spent in working gets less and less for the late hired men. Then comes the payment. The regular crew gets their usual amount of money. But surprisingly, those men who worked only a few hours get the same pay! That causes some hard feelings. But the landowner does not back down. He reminds the regular crew that they got what their contract called for. And then he adds, "Are you envious because I am generous?" Both justice and generosity are realities.
I wonder, in order to help you and me, what your answer would be to the question: Can you recall actual examples of the generosity of Jesus?
I can think of the blind man who heard that Jesus was coming down the road and begins to shout his name and to seek a cure. The crowd tells him to be quiet! But Jesus hears him and asks that the blind man be brought to him…Jesus generously cures him.
Another example occurs when Jesus is on the cross. There are two criminals who have been crucified and are hanging on either side of Jesus. One of the men is criticizing Jesus. "So you are the Messiah?" Save yourself and us as well." The so called "good thief" speaks up. "This man has done nothing wrong. We are getting what we deserve." Then the "good thief" turns to Jesus and asks, "Please remember me when you come into your kingdom." Justice is done to both thieves by way of the crucifixion, but it doesn’t stop there. The good thief hears Jesus say, "This day you will be with me in paradise." Honesty wins the day. Justice and generosity are accomplished.
And now, how would you and I answer the question: "Are there any memories that I have of not being receptive to generosity shown to someone?" If that has happened to us, it provides us with a moment to reflect. Justice calls for a /black and white/ clean cut attitude. Promise given, promise fulfilled, reward is given. It can also put me in a position of authority which need not be bad.
Generosity doesn’t quite work that way. Remember the motorcycle accident that was featured on T.V. these past two days. A college student riding along on his motorcycle had a car turn in front of him and chose to tip his motorcycle on its side to avoid a direct collision. He hit the car anyway and slid under the car. In the meantime the front of the car and his motorcycle burst into flames. Some workers nearby and some passersby’s see the critical situation. A number of them gather on the side of the car and lift it high enough for another person to pull the injured college student to safety. Talk about generosity! The burning car could have exploded.
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.