I was a very quiet child. What? You don’t believe me? It’s true. There are witnesses. So quiet that I did not speak at all in First Grade. It may have had something to do with the fact that I was terrified of my teacher--she had a reputation for being the meanest of the mean, and I had no interest in finding out if the rumors were true. Despite the prodding of my classmates to whisper during a class, giggle, or chit chat out of turn, I kept my lips sealed. We must have been a particularly aggravating group of 6 year olds on one particular day because our teacher announced “If any girls talk in line today all of the girls are staying in for recess.” And what do you know--high on Lisa Frank pencils and Micro Machines, my class just couldn’t contain themselves. Except for me. For the 100th+ day of the year I had managed to keep my lips sealed. The rest did not, and all of the girls were condemned to stay in for recess.
Something snapped inside of me. The injustice of it all… I had worked so hard, losing social capital, missing out on all of the 1st grade gossip, sealing my fate as a teacher’s pet by staying silent all of these months, only to be punished with the rest of the rowdy, rule-breaking rabble? Certainly not!
I went to the teacher’s desk and said very plainly, “Mrs. Name Redacted, I did not speak in line today. In fact, I have not spoken at all this year. I do not think it is fair that I would have to stay in for recess.” She said something along the lines of “Tough.” I returned to my seat, and she proclaimed across the classroom, “You know, Katie, sometimes the good get punished with the bad.” The injustice of that statement (silently) enraged me and may have been the impetus for my desire to go to law school, but we can explore that another day.
Later that afternoon she pulled me out of P.E. I was frozen with terror. What came next was an even bigger shock… She apologized and said she decided to rescind my punishment and allow me to enjoy recess. I think I just looked at her blankly--never before having won a fight for justice. She then said, “How about a hug?” Smothered by her oversized sweatshirt with matching clip-on earrings and mercy, I returned to P.E.
At recess all of the boys stopped and questioned me… why aren’t you inside for recess? Weren’t all of the girls punished? Why weren’t you punished? And I told the tale of my teacher’s ability to respond to reason and logic when explained simply by a 1st grader. And I am pretty sure it did not end with me sticking my tongue out, but my memory is hazy.
What did this teach me about mercy? About forgiveness? About justice? Not much--because I am quite sure I was not the only one not speaking in line that day. I’m also sure the boys were not as innocent as they let on. This story has always reminded me of this Sunday’s Gospel--our ideas of justice and mercy are not God’s ideas of justice and mercy, (Thank Him for that).
What bothered 6 year old me was not so much the not going to recess, but the idea that we would all suffer for the fault of one or two. But the reality is as a human race, we are all suffering for the fault of one or two: Adam & Eve. #youhadonejob That loss of original justice in the Garden of Eden condemned mankind to be locked out of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus comes to earth to unlock the gates--but not just for the little Katie Austins who have kept their mouths shut out of fear and obedience--He is going to unlock the gates for all… now not everyone is going to choose to walk through the gates, but Salvation, Redemption, Healing, Wholeness, Peace, Joy… are intended for all. Even “mean” 1st Grade teachers.
Jesus has issued this week’s challenge directly, “Are you envious because I am generous?” The generosity and mercy of God in this week’s Gospel bothers us. It pricks our sense of justice and fairness… How can those that roll in just before quitting time get the same paycheck as those that did not hit snooze, had a great breakfast, and managed to get to work early with perfect hair and makeup? Because God’s ways are not our ways. And the struggle of envy is very real.
Envy in our lives is undone with a combination of Gratitude + Humility. When we’re grateful we don’t have as much time to wish we had what others possess. However, envy has a darker side: not only wishing we had what others possess but further, that others didn’t have it either! This week, let's tackle Envy together!
This week’s challenge options:
Make a Daily Gratitude list: Write 10 things down each day that you are grateful for--get creative! (Rules: they have to be 10 unique people, opportunities, experiences, gifts, talents, etc., each day.) Bonus challenge: keep it going for the month of October as well!
Think of a person you envy and what you envy about them… their career, good looks, stylish and hilarious blog, great prayer life, their vocation, admiration of others, their sown wild oats, drama-free life, their Corgi. Pray intentionally for that person each day this week through a modified Litany of Humility, For example...
That Envy D. Friend may be loved more than I ... Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That Envy D. Friend may be esteemed more than I … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, Envy D. Friend may increase and I may decrease … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That Envy D. Friend may be chosen and I set aside … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That Envy D. Friend may be praised and I unnoticed … Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That Envy D. Friend may be preferred to me in everything… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That Envy D. Friend may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
God bless the grape-pickers and those arriving late to the party,