The story of Joseph and his coat of many colors is a deep parable about love, perseverance and forgiveness. What would drive Joseph’s older brothers to consider murder? Envy? Pride? Why can’t they be satisfied with being a part of their father’s household? I don’t have to go far to understand; I only have to look at myself. I am filled with envy when I meet with friends who have more money, have a beautiful home, or are more successful professionally. I compare myself to them and wonder where I am lacking, what I have to do to also have material wealth, to buy a lavish home and have a great title.
That is why the reflection I found for today’s First Friday really cut deep into my mind: “Vanity, therefore, is a search for riches… a sense of longing for honors and the desire to ascend to high condition.” I may not go so far as murder, but isn’t neglecting my children and wife for my career just as bad? Ask yourself this: which one yields greater profit – overtime for your job or overtime for your family? I don’t get furloughed when I work overtime for my family. I won’t get laid off by my wife if I go above and beyond the call of duty. Whereas being a successful employee creates jealousy among coworkers, being a successful father sets a good example for my children to follow. We sympathize with the hero in today’s Old Testament reading, but what ought to catch our eye is how we can find ourselves like the hero’s brothers.
I look at the trajectory of my life and I marvel at the work God has done in my life. Are you at a happy point in your life? Are you at a sad point? If you’re at a sad point, you may be like Joseph when he was sold into slavery. You may feel weighed down by worries, chained by unwanted commitments and even betrayed by the ones you love. Joseph didn’t waste time wallowing in self-pity. Instead he became the best slave he could be and was promoted to the Egyptian master’s majordomo. Even after the master’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape, and his master threw him into jail, Joseph wasted no time with self-pity. He became a model prisoner. So the chief jailer put him in charge of all the prisoners in the jail. Life can really suck sometimes. It’s not easy to suck it up and make the best out of what’s given to us; but it is possible if we develop a strong relationship with God. You’ll be amazed by how you’re filled with grace to be kind in the face of rejection, to turn the other cheek when slapped, or to pray for the person who is causing you pain.
Fortunately, life isn’t bad all the time. If you’re at a happy point in your life, it’s easy to fall into the same kind of thinking as the tenants of the vineyard. If you are blessed with a good life, we must remember that it’s a gift from God. We are merely tenants of the vineyard. I am blessed with a good career, with a good wife and wonderful, healthy children. My station in life is a gift. It is a vineyard which I must cultivate with care. When it bears fruit, I must give back to God. What would that look like? How do I give back what is God’s due? It’s different for every person. I try to give at least $20 at every Mass. I make time to sing in the Church’s choir. Instead of saving our money, I give almost all our savings to my parents who would otherwise be living in poverty. My wife and I teach our children to pray. I forsake my own pursuits in order to play with my daughters. I forsake my own pursuits in order to do whatever my wife tells me to do. I serve my wife even when I’m upset with her. And, I do it with love, in the same way God continues to bless my life even while I upset and hurt Him with my sins.
Even though, as I write these down, it seems like I do a lot to give back to God, I know I’m not doing enough. My wife and I still take a lot for granted. There is still so much more we can do to give back to God. Yet, we hold back. We hold back in many ways: time for people, money for charity, discipline for prayer… the list goes on and on. If we recognize that everything that is good about our life, everything that we love about our life is a gift from God, then we will see how much we owe Him. When we choose not to be aware of our own blessings, we are rejecting the cornerstone that is the foundation of all that is good in life and, ultimately, our salvation.