Scripture Reflection for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Do you rejoice in the good that others do? Jesus reprimands his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. They were upset that someone who was not of their company was performing a good work in the name of Jesus. They even “forbade” the man “because he was not following us.” Jesus’ reply is filled with wisdom: “No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.” Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to shine more than us? Paul says that “love is not jealous… but rejoices in the right” (1 Corinthians 13:4,6).
Envy and jealousy must be rooted out of our hearts
Envy and jealousy, its counterpart, are sinful because they lead us to sorrow over what should make us rejoice – namely, our neighbor’s good. The reason we may grieve over our another’s good is that somehow we see that good as lessening our own value or excellence. Envy forms when we believe that the other person’s advantage or possession diminishes or brings disgrace on us. Envy is contrary to love. Both the object of love and the object of envy is our neighbor’s good, but by contrary movements, since love rejoices in our neighbor’s good, while envy grieves over it.
How can we overcome envy? With the love that God has put into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit purifies our heart and frees us from our disordered passions, such as envy, jealously, greed, and bitterness. God’s love is a generous and selfless love which is wholly oriented towards our good and the good of all his creatures. The love that God places in our hearts seeks the highest good of our neighbor. God’s love purifies and frees us from all envy and jealousy – and it compels us to give generously, especially to those who lack what they need.
God rewards those who do good to others
Every one in need has a claim on us because they are dear to God who created them in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God created us in love for love. We are most free and happy when we love as he loves. The love and charitable help we show to our neighbor also expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant mercy and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to those in need would not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Are you grateful for God’s mercy and kindness towards you and are you ready to show that same kindness and generosity towards your neighbor?
Gregory of Nyssa, an early church father (330-395 AD), comments on this passage: “God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnished to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: ‘whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward’” (Mark 9:41). Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbor with kindness and mercy?
Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin
Was Jesus’ exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-48)? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death.
Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek word for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?
“Lord Jesus, free my heart from envy and jealousy, and every disordered thought and wrong desire, that I may always treat each person with respect and goodness for the glory of your name.”