25th Sunday B
September 19th, 2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony”
It is said that if you get a reputation of being an ‘early riser’ you can ‘sleep in’ as much as you like. One’s reputation is a precious matter be it good or bad. People go to great lengths to protect their reputation often at great personal cost. Reputation is deemed of immense importance because of the qualities and values out of which one lives life.
Employers go to considerable effort to get references for prospective employees. A reference is valued as a positive and truthful statement of character of someone who knows the person from some previous context. Some employers, however, do not rely on such references any more. They simply go on social media and search for whatever engagements one has had. This has been devastating for some because it has often revealed embarrassing details of opinions and poor judgements / behaviour from the past.
Another dimension of social media that can be deeply damaging to people’s reputation and wellbeing is trolling, where a deliberate effort is made to disturb and upset someone just for one’s amusement.
These thoughts came to mind as I read and reflected on the heading from the Book of Wisdom. These practices do not differ very much from
“Let us be in wait for the virtuous man
since he annoys us and opposes our way of life”.
“Let us test him with cruelty and with torture
And thus explore this gentleness of his
And put his endurance to the proof”
In the 2nd Reading from St. James, it reads
“Wherever you find jealousy and ambition,
You find disharmony and wicked things
of every kind being done”.
He names jealousy and ambition as the root of very destructive negative thought and action. This applies on a personal level yes but it then finds expression in public life through ‘fake-news’ or ‘spin’. Common to all of this style of thought and action is a desire to distort, manipulate the truth about a person or events for personal gain and advantage. It is an exercise in deception and distortion to the point of lying. You could argue that some advertising falls into this way of operating also but that is for another day.
It is important to add that ambition is a worthy virtue. What we are asked to-day is what price? Goals realised by deceitful action are an exercise in pretence both of ourselves and others. And we should not believe we ourselves are beyond doing so. The Apostles on the road …. What were you ….
“The wisdom that comes down from above
is essentially something pure“ Letter of James.
“There is no trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it”
Jealousy is a very subtle and dangerous sentiment. Subtle because it can take root in our hearts almost without our being aware of it. It is like an emotional knot weed – it was a creeper style growth. It infiltrates our emotional wellbeing with a toxic strand of thinking that over time finds expression in anger, resentment and sarcasm. We can recognise it easily in others but slow to see it in ourselves.
Maybe the particular question to-day’s Word asks of us is round our mindset – in regard to others and indeed life in general. Can we cherish our blessings, can we rejoice in the good fortune and gifts of others? How do we live with reality of what we cannot achieve or possess?
Our lives are unique and precious to us. It is our vocation and call to flourish according to the gifts given. No more and no less