Homily, Saturday in the 4th Week of Easter
Fr. Miguel Marie Soeherman, MFVA
Saturday, 9 May 2009, 7am Mass
Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, AL
Paul and Barnabas had been preaching in Antioch of Presidia. Just before today’s passage that we heard in the First Reading, Saint Luke actually tells us how Paul and Barnabas were so successful that many Jews and devout converts to Judaism ended up following Paul and Barnabas. They became disciples of Christ. They followed a new life. They followed the way of Christ. In today’s passage, however, it states that when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealously and they contradicted what was spoken by Paul and reviled him. The Jews were jealous of Paul and Barnabas’ successful preaching. They were sad because of their success. This is really what happens when one is jealous toward another person — they become sad at someone’s success or they become happy at someone’s failures.
The Catechism tells us that jealously or envy is a capital sin, a sin that tends to lead to other sins and it specifically refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s good. It refers to the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even if it means acquiring them unjustly. It also talks about how it can be mortal when it wishes grave harm to our neighbor.
St. Augustine saw this particular sin — envy or jealously — as the diabolical sin. He said from envy is born hatred; from envy is born detraction — that is telling the truth about someone’s character to another who has no right to the information. From envy born calumny — that is telling lies about someone’s character to another in order to destroy or ruin someone’s character or reputation. From envy born joy caused by the misfortune of another. From envy born displeasure caused by the misfortune of a neighbor. Again, envy represents the form of sadness and because of it, one refuses to be charitable towards ones neighbor. Envy or jealously is really a reflection of the ancient serpent, Lucifer, who wanted to be like God and to be greater than God and would do anything to ruin our souls. What does our Holy Father St. Francis say? This comes from his admonition, particularly Chapter 8 on the “Avoidance of the Sin of Envy.” This is what he said: The apostle says no one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. The apostle (referring to Paul) also says that there is no one who does good — not even one. Therefore whoever envies his brother, the good which the Lord says or does in him, commits a sin of blasphemy because he envies the Most High who says and does every good. So envy is really the sin of blasphemy, as our Holy Father St. Francis tells us. St. John Vianney warned that whoever is envious is also proud at the same time because envy and pride really go hand in hand. They tend to look down upon our neighbor. So to remain humble and cultivate the virtue of humility is really to fight against both capital sins of pride and envy. Humility really means seeking God’s glory instead of our own. He also suggests that if we are tempted to thoughts of envy against our neighbor, far from letting him see it by our cold manner, we must go out of our way to be friendly and to do him any service that lies in our power. That is one way to weaken the temptation to envy. Or simply say to the Lord, “Lord I thank you for the good that you are doing now through so and so because apart from you we can do nothing, but with you we can do all things.”
So giving praise to the Lord for what He is doing to the one to whom we are tempted to envy toward — this is really what St. John Chrysostom said. Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others God will be praised.
Of course, our Lord is the perfect example and way for us to imitate — to follow of his noble and generous heart. This is what Mother Angelica pointed out in her little book “Divine Personality of Jesus.” How she said we are generous when we give but we are noble when we share and efface ourselves so others receive the glory. Jesus was generous with His gifts and with His power, but His love was so great that He shared His gifts and power with finite men. He thanked the Father for sharing His gifts with men. He encouraged them to go out and use those gifts realizing that attention would eventually be drawn away from our Lord Himself and attention be drawn to the disciples. This is the goodness, generosity, and nobleness of our Lord’s Sacred Heart. Jesus told His apostles that whoever believes in Him would perform greater works than He did, as we heard in the Gospel today. He found pleasure in letting others share in the marvelous power He possessed as God. Only a generous heart would desire to give everything to others. Only a noble heart would share its power to perform miracles and reward His creatures for merely using the talents and gifts He gave them. Our Lord was never tired of giving examples of the kind of generosity He expects from us. You recall the parable of the Good Samaritan how he stressed the point of the man’s generosity. Not only was the Samaritan a good neighbor by stopping to take care of the injured man’s wounds, but he brought him to an inn and paid the innkeeper to continue caring for him. He even went further by saying if there is more cost that I need to pay, I will pay you when I get back- even going that far. And of course our Lord is the Good Samaritan. He spent every moment of His life manifesting His love for the Father and His love for all of us. He never seemed to think of Himself or never thought of focusing on losing His comfort. He never failed to serve others. He healed as a sign of the Father’s power in Him. All of these things that the Lord showed us — this is the exact opposite of what happened to the Jews who were jealous of Paul and Barnabas because they were successful in their preaching. And so let this attitude of the Jews be a lesson, caution and a warning for us that we are not be jealous when others are successful in their works or successful in their goodness.
Today is the Feast of St. Catherine of Bologna who was born into nobility in the early 1500’s. She joined the Franciscan order and was renown with the order as a talented artist and a gifted writer. One of her works is the “Seven Spiritual Weapons.” Catherine was also reported to have been blessed with numerous visions. One of those visions was on Christmas Eve when our Blessed Mother appeared to her and presented her with the newborn Christ Child. She went into ecstasy adoring this Divine Child. In fact to this day some 500 years after her death, her body remains incorrupt in a seated position in a chapel built especially for her. All the saints had similar temptations as we do today. They had their struggles as we struggle today. They are more than happy to help us as much as they can, as much as the Lord allows them to help us. We want to take advantage of today’s feast by asking St. Catherine of Bologna to help us to be generous and noble in our hearts. That we are to offer constant praise to the Lord because of our neighbor’s goodness in order to overcome any temptation to envy, so that we would walk in the path of our Lord, that is the path of nobleness and the path of generosity.