Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—13 September AD 2020
Ave Maria!



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Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

On Envy, Pride, et al.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit... not provoking one another, envying one another.”[1]

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 them.

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.”

Or, more positively, “If he sows the seed of the spirit, the spirit will reap life everlasting.”



[1]   Epistle:  Galatians v: 25, 26.; vi. 1-11



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