Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Envy
Great or small, rejection always hurts. Particularly when the basic reason stems from envy. The first and the third readings today deal with situations involving envy; and the second reading from St. Paul's letters describes the other side of the coin to self-seeking envy, namely, unselfish love.

Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19 - When called to be a Prophet, Jeremiah knew that hard times lay ahead for him. The Israelite people had drifted away from the terms of the Covenant and were largely corrupt, especially their leadership. They would resist correction. But, with God's help, Jeremiah persevered against all criticism.

1 Cor. 12:31 - 13, 13 - This is one of the more beautiful passages from St. Paul's letters in which he affirms that love of God is the basis of the Christian way of life. All other virtues have value when motivated by love.

Mark 4: 21-30 - This reading continues on from that of last week. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in his home town, only to be rejected by his own people when he tells them that the word of God is to be made known to all people, and not just the chosen few.

Point 1: ƒ‚‚‚ "Who do you think you are?" - a fairly common form of 'put-down" when one persons outshines another. And this was the situation in the synagogue at Nazareth on that Sabbath morning when His friends and neighbours invited Jesus to address the assembly. The ordinary people were impressed - " and he won the approval of all"; the Pharisees and Scribes, however, aware that their own position was being challenged, immediately set about undermining the growing authority of Jesus -"This is Joseph's son, surely?" In other words, "Who does he think he is?" But then Christ went too far! He challenged them further by stating that despite their privileged position as "God's chosen", many outsiders would be chosen. To use modern parlance - the crowd went "ballistic". Outraged, friend and neighbour joined in running him out of town and even sought to kill him. In this they were following the example of their forefathers who had rejected the earlier prophets, including Jeremiah. In both instances, the basis of the rejection was envy. Both the Prophets and Jesus had done well, and, because of this, the question was asked "Who do they think they are?"

Point 2: Envy is an insidious vice. Many confuse it with jealousy or greed; but it is different from these two faults. Jealousy wants what the other person has and is not prepared to share. Greed simply wants as much and more than the other. Envy, however, simply does not want the other to have any advantage. It is totally destructive.

Conclusion: There are two lessons to be learned about envy. Firstly, one should never allow oneself to back away because of envious criticism. To do so means settling for mediocrity. Looking at today's gospel incident, had Jesus allowed himself to back away from his mission to make the good news known to all people because his friends and neighbours had given him the cold shoulder, so to speak, world history would have been much different. It is worth asking - how often have we backed off, or have been tempted to quit, because of envious criticism? We set ourselves to do something good, something that represents the best of our talents and abilities, only to have our good intentions questioned. Our natural reaction is to say "To heck with it all!"

The second lesson is that envy is so insidious that we can easily find ourselves being envious and victimising others by trying to cut them down to size. Together with hunger and sex, envy ranks among the most powerful of human motivating forces. It happens so easily at home, in the office, at work and recreation. A sure sign of envy is an unwillingness to give credit where credit is due. Hopefully, these few thoughts may help us to be aware of the problem.

Scriptural reference: "[Mat 20:15] Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?'