Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—13 September AD 2020
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Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
On Envy, Pride, et
“If we live
in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit... not provoking one
another, envying one another.”
In St. Paul's
epistle this morning, he alludes to the need for exercising our Faith in
a practical manner. It is not enough to believe the articles of the
Faith as they are proposed to us by the Church. We must also conduct
our life in a Christian manner. Certainly, we must "believe in the Holy
Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the forgiveness of sins, the
resurrection of the body," and so on, but there is more to it than
this. There is also a down-to-earth set of behaviors which is part of
being a Catholic.
A great deal of
emphasis is placed on the keeping of the Commandments. They reflect
God's natural law, and point out the way in which we must conduct
ourselves if we are to do our earthly duty to God, to our fellow man,
and to ourselves.
But even the
Commandments are not the end of it; but merely a beginning. We keep
hearing our Lord tell us that we must have positive virtues. It is not
enough to simply keep the Commandments in the negative sense of "staying
out of trouble." Fairly often in the New Testament, our Lord exhorts is
to acts of charity toward the needy ÄÄ to visit the sick, to clothe the
naked, to feed the hungry, and so on.
But, perhaps even
more fundamental, is the attitude which St. Paul describes this
morning. And "attitude" may be the best word to describe it, for it
requires a certain "slant" on life; an attitude, or a "mind-set."
Paul is telling us
something about how we should relate ourselves to those who are close to
us. He is talking about our relationship to our family members, our
relationship to the other members of this parish, perhaps to co-workers
and people who live in our neighborhood.
In one sense, Paul
is cautioning us—as he has done many times before—against the vice of
pride. We are fooling ourselves if we are trying to be Christians,
while comparing ourselves to our close neighbors. If we hold grudges,
or act as though we were superior, or if we try to provoke them to
anger, or talk about them and hold them up to contempt or ridicule, we
will fall into the devil's trap.
“On the other side
of the same coin,” if you will, we are cautioned against envy. Just as
it is foolish for us to delude ourselves with false pride about how
superior we are, it is equally foolish to envy the characteristics or
the possessions of our neighbors. There really isn't much difference,
for often when we envy someone, we are really telling ourselves that
they don't deserve their good fortune—that their good fortune should
have been ours, because we are really better than them anyway!
It doesn't take too
much imagination to see how a mixture of envy and pride could destroy
the order in a society of people—provoking hatred and theft, promoting
quarrels and fights, destroying the mutual cooperation so necessary to
any society—be it a family, a parish, a neighborhood, or whatever. And
it certainly doesn't take much to see how these vices could quickly put
us at a distance from the graces of God.
St. Paul's remedy
for this tendency to envy and pride is the introspection of humility:
“Let everyone prove his own work, and so he shall have glory in himself
only, and not in another.” In other words, our striving should be to do
the best we can, for its own sake. Not to impress those around us. Not
to try to possess more than they do. Not to look more attractive than
them. Not to determine how they could do better than they do. But to
try to do the very best we can with what God gave us.
A truly humble
person doesn't grovel. He knows what he can do, and what he can't...
his strengths and weaknesses... his limitations and his opportunities
for excellence. And he knows that all of these things come from God,
and can only be judged in reference to God, or at most, in terms of how
he makes use of them to draw closer to God.
So, “if we live in
the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” It is not enough to simply
say, “Lord, Lord, I believe.” We must also keep the Commandments, and
peacefully and productively with one another.
We must temper
everything we do—every relationship—with the virtue of humility—neither
feeling that we are superior to those around us, nor being envious of
Remember that, as
St. Paul says, “God is not mocked... if man sows the seeds of discord
and corruption, that is what he will reap.”
positively, “If he sows the seed of the spirit, the spirit will reap