THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
9 September 2018
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Jesus knows our thoughts before we have even conceived them. He sees into the hearts and minds of the Pharisees in today's Gospel. These men are smitten with envy. The Pharisees are filled with hatred of Jesus because he does good. In His healing of the dropsical man, they desired to find fault. They were ready to condemn Him for working on the Sabbath. He anticipated their accusations before they even spoke them. He shows them (and us) the hypocrisy of such an accusation. The Pharisees do not hesitate to break the Sabbath to preserve their wealth and property. If it is permitted to save an animal on the Sabbath, then helping a man on the Sabbath cannot be condemned.
We are very poor judges of ourselves and we are even worse at judging others. God is the only true and good judge. God looks upon everything and nothing is hidden from Him. He sees all that is bad in us as well as all that is good. In the condemnation of our fellow men we often fail to observe any good that may be in him, and then our judgment is bad or false. The same is true if we judge him good without seeing anything that is bad. Rather than envy anyone for the good that is in them we should love them all the more, to see that God has blessed them with His gifts. Yet, we still do not know what the final judgment of God will be in his case or in our own. We should, then, leave all the judging to Him, and love and praise Him for all the good that we may see in ourselves as well as in others.
Envy is a hatred of others because of the good that is perceived to be theirs. Cain hated his brother Abel. Why? Did Abel do anything to Cain? Abel's crime in the eyes of Cain, was simply that God was pleased with Abel. The good that was in Abel caused his brother to hate him and to kill him for it. We often still perceive this evil of envy today. How often we might say with St. Paul, "Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16)
Envy is totally illogical and irrational. We should love the good and all those who have or are good. Everyone knows this on some level, and for the shame of having such evil, envious, thoughts and feelings we are forced to hide them from the eyes of others. This introduces us to the companion vice of envy hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a lie. We present ourselves as friends, all the while harboring evil in our hearts. This is what Jesus saw in the hearts of the Pharisees in today's Gospel. This is the disease, and Jesus is the Physician. At the root of these maladies, Jesus sees a more primal disorder or evil, and this is pride.
What is the remedy or cure prescribed by the Divine Physician? We find it presented in the passage that follows When we are invited to the wedding feast, we should take the last place rather than the first. We must fight pride and vanity with deliberate acts of humility. In this practice of humility we are professing the truth humility is truth. We are all unworthy of the first place, or we are only deserving of the last place if we are deserving of any place at all. Any good that is in us is the work of God and He deserves the honor or praise. Any evil that is in us is our own work and it is deserving only of reproof and punishment. This is the truth and it is through the practice of humility that we come to know and understand it.
When the humble truth penetrates our hearts and souls, we no longer practice the duplicity of hypocrisy. Freed from pride, vanity, and hypocrisy, we will soon find it easy to overcome envy. As these vices are uprooted from our souls, room is made for the virtues to take hold. The deliberate cultivation of the virtues increases and expands them allowing ever more virtues to take root and develop. The queen or principle of all virtues is love or charity.
Thus, far from hating those who possess some good, we love them all the more for the good that is in them, because now we understand that God is the source of this goodness and it is truly God that we either love or hate in our fellow men. When we boil envy down to its essence we see that it is ultimately hatred of God Who has given good things to others. Hatred of the good is hatred of God. Love of all that is good is true love of God.
May we all strive to take the medicine that Jesus has offered us and deliberately seek to humble ourselves, that we may drive out the disease and allow the healing virtues to grow and raise us to healthy spiritual life in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
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