Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Cup Overflows

Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

By Colleen O’Sullivan

For thus says the Lord God:  I myself will look after and tend my sheep.  (Ezekiel 34:11)

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.  (Psalm 23:5-6)

“’Are you envious because I am generous?’”  (Matthew 20:15b)

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts.
(Psalm 103:1-2)

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that when the shepherds of Israel turned out to be overwhelmingly self-absorbed, the Lord God himself stepped in and pushed them aside.  I love my flock, and “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” 

The psalmist sings the praises of the Shepherd who leads us to peace, who provides rest and sustenance in green pastures, who comforts us with his presence in our dark valleys, who throws a banquet in our honor, who showers us with kindness and mercy all our days.

I have recently returned from spending almost 5 weeks at a Jesuit retreat house, making my way with 23 others through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  At every turn, I was reminded of God’s generous and gracious love – in the gift of my life, in all the wonders of creation, in the friends God has placed in my path, in the forgiveness for my sins and hope of eternal life that God offers.

After the first reading, the psalm and my recent retreat, the Gospel for today sounds a jarring note.  It gets to the heart of our sin – ingratitude.  The story is about a vineyard owner who needs some extra workers.  He goes to the nearest 7-Eleven or other gathering place for day laborers and hires some help.  Every few hours he goes back and takes on a couple more workers.  At the end of the day, he hands out the wages, and every single person gets the same amount, no matter how few or how many hours spent in the vineyard!  Were we truly grateful for what we receive, which, when it comes from God, is always more than sufficient, there would be none of the complaining and kvetching that we read about in the story.  We would be joyful as well as happy for others’ good fortune.  Instead, the story ends with the vineyard owner wanting to know if we’re envious because he’s generous.  Kind of makes you want to slink away in shame.

Our God is the ultimate Generous Giver.  Take some time today to reread Psalm 23 or look at Psalm 103 and gratefully reflect on the ways in which God has blessed you.

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