There are two “hooks” in the parable we read in today’s Gospel of Matthew. They are the two items where we say, “Why did the owner of the vineyard do that? They are:
- Why did he pay everybody the same wage?
- When paying the workers, why did he insist on paying the ones who worked the least – first, and those who worked the longest – last?
If he first pays the workers who worked 8 hours, there’s no problem. They take their pay. They go home. They have no idea what the others were paid. Nobody is upset because nobody is the wiser. If he pays less money to the people who worked less, nobody is upset because that would be expected. It is fair and just by normal human standards.
But that is not the case. Jesus changes everything by introducing these two “twists” into the story. Why?
Consider the reaction of the workers who worked for 8 hours. Did you notice that they “grumbled?” The definition of grumbling is “to complain in a bad tempered way but quietly or silently.” They were not happy; they were angry.
Anger typically comes from fear or frustration – or both. You can be angry. It’s normal. It means the systems are working. Francis deSales offers an interesting insight about anger and all other emotions. He said, “We cannot be ruled by our emotions, but we have to pay attention to them. It is there, where the Holy Spirit resides.” The problem is that emotions don’t come with a manual.
Bishop T. D. Jakes preached on anger\ because Anger Can Take You To A Place You Can’t Come Back From. He says that anger can be expressed in three ways: physically, verbally or emotionally. We all understand physical anger. What might not be so obvious is that you can hurt someone “physically” but not even be hitting the personal physically. There are the other ways people can “physically” express anger by means of physical materials. For men, it’s through finances and stuff. Husbands who are angry with their wives stay longer at work instead of coming home. “But I’m providing for the family” they’ll say. But that’s a ruse. Or they’ll withhold presents that a wife likes to receive or give her a gift of a price or quality that is less than he could certainly afford or that she deserves or would appreciate. For women, the weapon of choice is physical contact and intimacy. They’ll shut down. They’ll turn it off. And then they act surprised and hurt when he goes elsewhere looking for physical intimacy.
Verbal anger involves the power of expression. Your words have power. That power can last forever. How many of us remember a hurtful word that was said to us years – and even decades – before? Words need to be measured carefully. Sure, it feels good to you to let someone have it. But if you do, you have an issue. That’s cruel. That’s bullying. What’s your problem? A cruel word spoken in anger can do damage for years.
According to The Bishop, Emotional anger is “Not being able to find a way to express what you’re frustrated about leads to emotional anger which, in turn, leads to emotional abandonment.” She is the successful, admired, professional woman. She comes home and does so every night. She even takes care of the house and kids – but she left you years ago. Or he speaks to her – but always during the football game on TV. Or when he talks to her, he only express what’s wrong – with the house, with the kids, with her hair, with her dress. She wants to talk. She wants to share. She wants to hear about the important parts of his life and his heart. But he gives her the “silent treatment.” This is traumatic “especially to someone who breathes in the air of your affection.”
Now, people will justify their anger. “It was my past, it was my mom, it was my dad, it was my upbringing, lack of finances, it was my neighborhood, etc… I have a right to be angry.” Well that might explain it – but it doesn’t excuse it!
You can only give to another, what’s in the warehouse. If you didn’t get the things that you needed or deserved, (peace, contentment, security, health) you don’t have it in the warehouse. When you were younger, if you didn’t see it – you won’t be able to do it. And if someone else doesn’t have it in their warehouse, they can’t give it to you. I can only give to you what’s in my warehouse. If what is in my warehouse is anger, discontent, insecurity, bad mental or spiritual health, that’s what I will give to you.
How do we manage, what is managing us – before it destroys us? Because Anger Can Take You To A Place You Can’t Come Back From. In Matthew 13:52 Jesus says, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” You will have to muster an entire portfolio of resources to deal with this.
First – Get a plan.
Second – read your Bible. When I’m annoyed at a person or situation, first identify what is making me angry – I name it. Then I go to a website called Open Bible. I look up the topic and I start reading. The Bible is not just a “religion book.” It’s Jesus Christ speaking in human words plus power.
Third – see a medical doctor. Anger aimed at harming oneself or someone else is a sign of clinical depression. This is not an emotional issue; this is a chemical issue.
Fourth – get a guide or counselor. Life is hard. Life is full of people who are crazy and they are not getting healthier. They might have had an effect on you in the past or they are having a negative effect on you now. This stuff is real. You don’t know what you are dealing with. You were not trained about this stuff. Find out what is going on.
Fifth – get a coach or mentor. Have someone whom you like and trust, with whom you meet on a regular basis who holds you accountable.
Sixth – get a priest and go to Confession. Go again.
Seven – go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. No exceptions – no excuses.
In closing, here are some scripture passages dealing with anger:
Ecclesiastes 7:9 – “Control your temper. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”
Ephesians 4:25-27 – “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. “Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger; do not give the devil a foothold.” This is actually St. Paul quoting Psalm 4:4 – “Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
Audio version of the homily is here: