— Saint Bernard, Abbot & Doctor of the Church —
Ordinary Time Week 20: Wednesday

“[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15)

Saint Gregory the Great offers the following insight on this verse from today’s Gospel:

“The householder said to them, “I wish to give to this last one as I give even to you.” And since the obtaining of his kingdom comes from his good will, he properly adds, “Or am I not allowed to do what I wish?” It is always foolish to question the goodness of God. There might have been reason for loud complaint if he did not give what he owed but not if he gives what he does not owe. And so he adds, “Or is your eye evil because I am good?

But no one should boast of his work or of his time, when after saying this Truth cries out: “So the last will be first and the first last.” We know what good things we have done and how many they are; we do not know with what exactitude our judge on high will investigate them. Indeed, we must all rejoice exceedingly to be even the last in the kingdom of God.” (Forty Gospel Homilies, 19)

Pondering today’s Patristic passage...
Saint Gregory the Great’s quote of Matthew 20:15 — “Or is your eye evil because I am good?” — is closer to the original Greek. The eye, in this Parable, is described as poneros, the Greek word meaning evil or diseased. While there are diseases and illnesses that afflict one and the cause is unknown, poneros conveys a sense of culpability or responsibility. In other words, I did something that brought on or contributed to being sick. Thus poneros, in the Revised New American Bible, is translated as envious. Not only is envy numbered among the capital sins, some writers — such as Saint Gregory of Nyssa — termed it a “congenital disease … the self-willed emancipation, the bitter dart, the nail of the soul, the fire in the heart, the flame burning on the inside.” (Life of Moses 2, 257) The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that “envy can lead to the worst crimes … [for] through the devil’s envy death entered the world.” (2538). Once again, the antidote for such a malady lies only in the gratuitous grace of God received and acted upon in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as we actively and consciously attend to the needs of all people.

O God,
Who made of the Abbot Saint Bernard
a man consumed with zeal for Your house
and a light shining and burning in Your Church,
grant, through his intercession,
that we may be on fire with the same spirit
and walk always as children of light.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

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