Message: I ask you to read Romans 8 and recall the main points of this series.
This weekend I conclude the series on Life in the Spirit.* I've enjoyed doing this series. It has helped me and I hope you have benefited from St. Paul's insights. I encourage you to prayerfully read Romans, Chapter 8. Try using the "lectio divina" method: slowly read a verse or two, stop at one that strikes you and use it to enter a conversation with Jesus.
As you read Romans 8, you will see a basic message: trust in Jesus - all things work for good for those who love God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We must keep coming back to that message.
There is however a problem. I can hear about God's providence - and believe it. But then I start thinking about this or that problem. I start worrying about the future. Instead of counting my blessings, I begin focusing on what I don't have. Before I know it, I am saying, "Oh, poor me!"
Pretty soon I am having a pity party. It grows. The party becomes so big I could invite all the residents of Monroe. You know what I mean: Sky Valley Pity Party, hosted by Father Bloom, bring the whole family!
I realize of course that these thoughts are futile, even foolish - especially when I compare myself with others who have so much less than I do. But the problem is that I not only compare myself with those who have less, but those who have more - or at least I think they have things that I would like to have.
To make that comparison is not bad in itself. It can motivate me to work for something I don't have. For example, I might listen to a dynamic preacher and recognize that he has something I don't have. It might motivate me to study different approaches so I can improve my own preaching.
That's good, but (as Cervantes observed) comparisons can be odious. I remember when I was young priest, assigned with another priest close to my age who was an excellent speaker. Everyone praised his homilies. He had this deep, rich voice - and a compelling presence, tall, stately with full head of hair. (Pause) I hated him.
This sadness at another person's success is called envy. You know about envy as well as I do. It's one of the biggest traps in our relation with others - and in our relation to God because we are saying to him, "I don't like the way you made me." Envy, instead of making a person work harder, makes him want the downfall of that other person. We actually desire his harm.
Envy is huge problem in our society. Advertisement plays on envy - our constant comparing ourselves with others. For example instead of describing the good qualities of a product they say, "If you want to be really cool, buy this brand of tennis shoes!"
Our politics also have become based on envy. Politician offers us not good government, but the vindication of one group over another - to be able to gloat at the downfall of others.**
I'm not immune to those enticements. Even though I have chosen not to have a TV or computer in the rectory, I still get exposed to plenty of advertisement and politics. They are not bad in themselves, but often they don't provide information, only an appeal to envy.
Apart from these external influences, we face internal forces - what St. Paul refers to as principalities and powers. More than anything else the demons want to tempt us to envy. Envy makes a person miserable. It can even drive a person insane. King Saul was happy enough with young David until he heard women singing, "Saul slayed his thousands, but David slayed his ten thousands." Instead of seeing David as a godsend in his struggle against the Philistines, he reacted like me. He hated David. He set out to destroy the young man and wound up destroying himself. Thanks be to God, my envy did not have such disastrous consequences.
So what am I saying? We live in society permeated by envy. It's easy for us to move from a pity party to outright envy. Envy is the opposite of trust.
In his book 40 Days to a Purpose Driven Life Pastor Rick Warren has added a forty-first chapter on "The Envy Trap." I will be using some of his insights in a new series. It's called, "Finding Your Place." Finding one's place can motivate a person to develop their talents - and to avoid the trap of envy. Don't miss this new series.
For now, I ask you to read Romans 8 and recall the main points of this series: We are weak because of the flesh, the downward pull of human nature. God permits that weakness because it can lead to humility, dependence on Jesus. Pray to him: thank, ask, repent and praise Jesus. In him all things work for good. He will supply our needs just as he fed people in that deserted place.
I conclude this series on Life in the Spirit with the words of St. Paul:
"I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Amen.
*Week 1: Humility - "You are not in the flesh; on the contrary you are in the spirit"..."spirit willing, but flesh weak"
Week 2: Freedom - "the glorious freedom of the children of God"
Week 3: Prayer - "we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes..."
Week 4: Trust - "all things work for good for those who love God."
Week 5: Overcoming Envy - "What will separate us from the love of God?"
**This does not mean politics are intrinsically dirty or, God forbid, that Christians should stay out of politics. Still, we can fall into envy, just like everyone else, even in pursuit of a good goal. Next to religion politics is the most important human activity because it determines how we organize our lives in community. Of course for many today politics has become their de facto religion. You and I already have one so we must intentionally avoid that temptation. (see Mk 12:17)
From Archives (for Eighteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru