Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Bane of Community Living: Jealousy and Ambition

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year

How do friendships sour? How do rifts occur within communities? How does disharmony set in to our society and culture? The answer simply lies in today’s second reading taken from the letter of St. James. He writes: “Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done...”

The greatest threat to our relationships as members of a family, the community and the Church often does not come from the outside. It is easy to blame all our problems on external factors. But very often, the greatest threat is found among ourselves. Our problems begin with feelings of jealousy that we have against one another. This is fueled by ambition for power and status. What is the cause of jealousy and ambition?

This is similar to the question that St. James asked in today’s second reading: “Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start?” He gives the following answer: “You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force.” Likewise, in today’s gospel, we see the disciples of Jesus fighting among themselves over the issue of power. They were arguing over which of them was the greatest.

Both jealousy and ambition stem from a sense of insecurity. When we are not comfortable with ourselves, when we feel that we are not good enough and that others are better off than us, when we feel that others threaten our status and position, we feel jealous. Jealousy affects our relationship with others. In fact, jealousy destroys relationship because when we are jealous of others, we try to work for their downfall. Jealousy leads to gossip and slander. One of the worst threats to community living is gossip, especially gossip arising from jealousy. The easiest way to destroy a person is by destroying his reputation. Sad to say many of us are often guilty of this. When we feel that others are doing better than us, when we feel that others have more knowledge or experience, when we feel that others are more popular than us, we feel threatened. A community that is filled with jealousy among its members will be wrecked by the same jealousy. If all our energies go into our petty squabbles instead of putting our hands to the plow in building God’s kingdom, we will be the stumbling block for the whole community and for the kingdom of God.

Are we guilty of jealousy and ambition among ourselves? Are we allowing our jealousy to destroy this community? Do we encourage and support one another in our ministry and good works or do we always try to find something negative about what the other person is doing? If this is happening, then we must put a stop to it immediately. Jesus has this to say to all of us: “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” We are called to humble service. We are called to work with one another to build God’s kingdom. We are called to conversion.

Conversion can only take place through prayer. St. James reminds us to pray – to pray not only for our selfish motives, to pray not only for the success of our own projects. We must pray for one another and for the whole community. We must pray that this community in the Church of Visitation, Seremban, will become a reflection of the values of the kingdom of God – a place of love, mutual acceptance and forgiveness. But prayer is not enough. We must be prepared to change our ways and heal our relationships with one another. Let us stop pointing the finger at one another. Today, Jesus invites us to look honestly at ourselves and pray for the conversion that is needed.

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