Homily for Thursday of the 2nd Week in Ordinary Time Year II
Theme: ‘Ufuanya vs Ifunanya’: THE IMATURITY IN JEALOUSY
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Thursday January 23 2020
*1 Sam 18:6-19:7, Mk 3:13-19.
We want to reflect today on what I call ‘Egotic vices’ – the human weaknesses that proceed from the human ego or pride. SanniSurk defines the ego as ‘our own best friend and worst enemy ‘. The Bible chronicles the sad history of the effects of envy in characters like Cain, Herod and Saul. In today’s 1st reading, the relationship between Saul and David begins to nose-dive. And Saul, the loser, is going to allow his personal jealousy to destroy him. As in the case of Cain and Abel, God warned Saul as he warned Cain. The same scenario; the Bible says: ‘Cain was very angry and downcast’. In the case of Saul, the Bible says: ‘And Saul was very angry’ when the women ascribed to David 10 thousands and to him (the incumbent King), thousands. ‘Saul eyed David from that day on’. In my language (Igbo), the word for envy (ufuanya) is opposite of the word for love (ifunanya). This captures the seriousness of the vice we are discussing today.
Envy is one of the commonest and deadliest vices – one of the 7 deadly sins discussed by Archbishop Fulton J Sheen. God warned Cain: ‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high. But if you are not doing right, sin is crouching at the door, hungry to get you. You can still master him ‘, Gen 4:6-7. Yes! Envy is the sin of those who are not doing right. Excellence keeps one’ s shoulder high and often does not allow him /her to fall victim to envy. According to VimaDasan, ‘One of the saddest things about envy is its smallness ; to be envious is to turn eternally like a caged rat within the tight radius of malice’. Can you imagine a father being envious that his son is rising to be greater than him? That is how petty envy can make us. Imagine an artisan like a shoe maker being jealous of his apprentice or a Parish Priest being jealous of his Curate?
Envy is self destructive. It shoots at others and wounds itself. It is one step towards madness. In otherwords, the envious person poisons his /her own banquet and eats it. Envy fans the embers of hatred and blurs the vision of objectivity. That is why in today’s gospel, the enormous popularity of Jesus as a leader did not get down well with the Pharisees and Scribes – the religious leaders of that time. It is worse for a leader to be envious of his subjects because his view /assessment of them from that moment becomes more and more erroneous. And because destiny belongs to God, we find ourselves fighting God directly whenever we begin to fight someone that God has blessed. And that is what happened in today’s 1st reading: As David’s star rose, Saul’s glory and sanity gradually eclipsed.
I will not like to end this reflection without underlining the negative role of women in this story. Men’s ego are often massaged by women. And that is nature’s bait. The bone of contention in this passage was the women’s comparative eulogy: ‘Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands’. Even the holiest of men could have fallen prey to the temptation of envy here – joke apart! Many a man has killed his fellow man just because of one woman behind his bedroom surreptitiously pumping the machine of aggression.
Many have fallen prey to the quicksands of ambition and vanity just because of one beautiful woman they want to impress somewhere. Only Jesus can heal us when we are under this natural affliction of envy or jealousy. As we find in today’s gospel that ‘all who had afflictions kept pushing towards Jesus to touch him’, let us do likewise. May God bless you today!