Sunday, 27 September 2015

Jealousy, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Num 11:25-29; Mk 9:38-43.45.46-48
I want to speak about two things today: Jealousy and Thanksgiving.

In both our first reading and in our Gospel text we heard disciples of the Lord being jealous about supernatural gifts that were given to others. The young man ran to Moses to complain that the supernatural gift of prophecy had been given to two men who weren't in the Tent (of meeting) -the two men had been given something, and the young boy didn’t think they should have it. Similarly, in the Gospel we heard how John complained to the Lord that the gift of casting out devils had been given to someone who wasn't in their group. In both cases we can detect jealousy about what had been given to someone else.

Now, jealousy is an odd sort of thing. These days I often find myself getting jealous of young men with hair. I still have some hair, but not as much or as thick as it once was. And I find myself jealous.
So, what is jealousy? St Thomas defines jealousy as a type of SADNESS that we experience at the good of another.
I see a young man with hair, and instead of being happy for him, happy that he has hair, somehow, I feel sad instead.
St Thomas adds further that the reason for such sadness is that we somehow imagine that the reason I DON’T have something is because this other person has it. The young man not only has hair but he has an iPhone 6S –and there is a limited number of those to go around, so I somehow feel that his having it means I don't. And I feel sad.
And sometimes, as in today's Gospel, we can feel sad in jealousy because even though we DO have something we don't want others to have it TOO, we are POSSESSIVE, we think that someone else having something nice DETRACTS from my having it too. To return to that Scriptural example, John had the gift of casting out devils, but he was sad that this gift was also being shared by others -his jealousy was linked with a possessiveness about it.

Such a sadness is a silly thing, even if it's a real thing. It can consume us and stop us enjoying the goods things we have because we are focussed on the good things that OTHER people have. It's a sadness, a sadness that leaves us sad. But there is a remedy: giving thanks.

Let me note four things that happen when I give thanks:
First, my giving thanks renders back to God the thanksgiving that I OWE Him.
Second, I become happier by focussing on what’s right rather than on what might seem wrong. I shift my focus away from my sadness at others, and shift my attention to what I have myself. And in giving thanks to God for it and in remembering that I have it, and I enjoy it more. And I become happier.
Third, my thanksgiving to God for his gifts to me frees me of the possessiveness linked with jealousy, because I recall that I don’t truly possess any of these things -they are talents on loan from God.
Finally, my turning back to God reminds me of His goodness towards me. Nothing in life makes us happier than knowing that we are loved (c.f. My previous sermon quoting Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino, n.iii). And nothing reminds us that we are loved more obviously than seeing the signs of such love, and giving thanks to God focuses exactly on such signs.

To sum that up. Jealousy is a real thing, but not a good thing. It is a sadness in me when I see someone else with something good.
The remedy is to give thanks. Thanks in the morning, thanks during the day, thanks, especially, as habit at the end of the day before going to bed.
Thanks: To see the good that I HAVE, not what others have; to see it as a sign of God’s love for me; to rejoice in seeing that good, and to rejoice in knowing it as a sign that I am loved.

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