Saturday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Envy has a curious way of spoiling everyone’s good time. When I was about seven, I was at a family reunion, and one of the activities planned was to go jet skiing. Unfortunately, my mom was (understandably) concerned that it wouldn’t be safe for one as young as I was, and so I had to sit the event out. A few years later, we had another reunion, and another time for jet skiing. This time, to my delight, I was allowed to ride along with an older cousin. However, to my fury, my younger sister (by now seven herself) was also allowed to go. I was quite annoyed at the supreme injustice (in my mind) of it all. My dislike of my younger sister having a privilege denied to me when I was her age (perhaps the plight of eldest siblings everywhere) kept me from fully appreciating that we were both able to enjoy a good time.
The disciples of John the Baptist are in a similar situation in today’s gospel. They are so focused on the supreme injustice (in their minds) of Jesus’s disciples being able to do something they do not (eat while others fast) that they lose sight of the good that they both enjoy. Jesus’s disciples are able to sit and delight in the presence of The Lord, while John the Baptist’s disciples draw closer to God through prayer and fasting. Their envy keeps them not only from seeing the goodness that Jesus’s disciples experience, but apparently dims their awareness of the goodness they experience as well. It is a subtle vice, often masquerading as justice. In the end, however, what pretends to be among the highest goods is in reality among the highest evils, flattening everyone’s goods so that the field seems level. However, God gives a wide diversity of gifts to people, rather than a “one size fits all” allotment of grace. We would do well to keep this in mind, lest envy come on to the scene and tarnish everyone’s good gifts.