Of Jealousy and Judgment
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)
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Last week our scripture readings warned against jealousy, with Christ admonishing the Apostles for arguing about who among them was the greatest. This week the lesson in humility continues with a warning to not be jealous of another’s gifts.
In our first reading (Nm 11:25-29), a young man complains to Moses that two elders are prophesying who (in his opinion) should not be. They were not among the elders gathered in the camp when the spirit of God came upon them. Moses asks the young man, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!”
Our gospel reading (Mk 9:38-48) recounts a similar tale. John complains to Jesus that someone is driving out demons who is not one of the (known) followers of Christ. Jesus tells John, essentially, to mind his own business. He then launches into a sermon about the importance of rooting out personal sin. In other words, turn that judgmental eye off of your neighbor and onto yourself.
We can be jealous of another’s possessions, appearance, or status. We can be jealous of another’s spiritual gifts. We can be jealous of their station or position. I’ve seen it many times, even within the Church. Why did the choir director have that person cantor the psalm? I have a better voice! Why did the pastor ask her to help plan the youth retreat? I’ve been volunteering for longer than she has! Why did the campus minister ask him to be on the Peer Ministry Council? I never see him at our Bible study!
At its heart, jealousy means we are judging others as being less worthy than ourselves. They don’t deserve those gifts — I do. Lest we forget, judging others is something we are forbidden to do (Mt 7:1). There are two phrases that often come up whenever moral issues are discussed or people are accused of being judgmental: “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” and, “Who am I to judge?”
People often confuse judging a person with judging a person’s actions. Who am I to judge another person? Absolutely! It is God’s place alone to judge the soul. When we judge the state of another’s soul, we usurp God’s authority and invite judgment upon ourselves. Who am I to judge another’s actions? This is a different matter. While we are forbidden to judge the state of anyone’s soul, we are commanded to judge actions. If we could not judge the rightness or wrongness of actions, we would have no way of avoiding sin.
Can you condemn a person’s actions without condemning the person? How do we hate the sin and love the sinner? It helps to consider the three conditions which the Church teaches are necessary for one to be in a state of mortal sin — that is to say, a state of separation from the life-giving grace of God. There are three conditions which must be met:
- Grave matter — the person must have committed an act which is objectively a serious sin.
- Sufficient knowledge — the person must have known the act was sinful.
- Sufficient use of will — the person must have wanted to perform the act.
|St. Ephaim the Syrian|