Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jealousy

Sun. 25th Week Year A
Mt 20, 1-16
Today Jesus tells us the parable of the landowner who hired laborers to work in his vineyard at all times of the day yet gave each one the same amount of pay. Those who worked longest very naturally were jealous of the ones who worked least, and so they complained. Yet, as the employer pointed out, he had a right to do what he pleased with his money as long as he gave the agreed pay to those who had bargained for it.
Jealousy is an emotion we all experience, though few of us are comfortable with it. In and of itself, like all emotions, jealousy is a moral neutral we share with the animals. Ask any dog owner of more than one dog! St. Thomas defines jealousy as a sadness we feel when someone has a good we think we should have. And so, jealousy is appropriate when the good we see is exclusively ours. I am jealous of my arm, my good name, my spouse, for they are truly mine and no one should take them from me. But if I am jealous of attention, honor, praise, or good fortune, there is a problem since other people have a right to these things as well as myself. It is part of the maturing process that we learn to recognize the difference and to act accordingly.
In the Old Testament, God is frequently depicted as the jealous lover of an unfaithful bride. And He is no less jealous of our love. He made us for Himself alone, and so He will tolerate no rival. Absolutely anything that comes between us and Him incurs His fiery wrath. His anger is not directed towards us as much as toward our turning from Him. But when the lazer beam strikes and we are suddenly cut off from the object of our affections, we feel it as punishment, as a painful wounding. If we could only understand that this fire is a cauterizing flame. It heals even as it burns.

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