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Homily for 12/21/08 - P27 - Envy

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 13:10-17 In the account of our Lord’s crucifixion, it is recorded that Pontius Pilate attempted to release Jesus “for he perceived that they (the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 21, 2008
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      Luke 13:10-17

      In the account of our Lord’s crucifixion, it is recorded that Pontius
      Pilate attempted to release Jesus “for he perceived that they (the
      Jewish elders) had delivered Him up out of envy” In the Gospel today we
      see that same envy at work as Jesus taught and healed others, enjoying
      the respect and love of the people who were touched by Him both in body
      and in soul. According to St John Chrysostom, when Jesus reached out to
      touch this poor woman who had been crippled and bent over for 18 years
      in order that she might be healed, the evil one stirred up envy in the
      heart of the ruler of the synagogue. Was he not the one to whom these
      people should look, did he not deserve their love and respect more than
      this wandering rabbi? And so he spoke out seeking to draw off the
      worthiness and compassion of Jesus’ action by pointing out that He had
      violated the law and so, in his interpretation, shown disrespect for not
      only the Law but also the Giver of the Law, and of course, the ones who
      taught the law. The ruler of the synagogue did not speak directly to
      Jesus, as one might who wished to lovingly correct and teach someone who
      had erred, but rather spoke to the people, desiring to gain for himself
      the respect and good opinion that they had bestowed upon Jesus. Our
      Lord, of course, rebuked him out of the self same law, showing that the
      law of God and acts of mercy and compassion are not incompatible, but
      indeed mercy and compassion are encoded in the law.

      Envy is a sin akin to jealously in that we see the condition or
      possessions of another and we desire these for ourselves, most often by
      depriving the other person of what they have that we want. This is a sin
      about which we really speak very little and yet it is constantly with
      us. Envy is not only akin to jealousy, but it is also akin to the
      passion of acquisitiveness wherein we see that which we do not have and
      wish to acquire it for ourselves. During this holiday season, envy is
      rampant for we see what others have that we do not and so begin making
      lists of the things we want others to give to us. We see what others get
      and regret that we did not receive the same. We give, but with the
      fervent hope that we will receive in turn. Envy produces within us the
      very opposite condition as that which we are taught by our Lord – that
      we might give and do good expecting nothing in return. In this very
      basic manner, envy is destructive to the soul.

      Even more so than at other times, the financially difficult times in
      which we are living also bring out a state of envy in the heart. We see
      what others have, and what we do not and we begin to judge them for
      their possessions. We make all kinds of assumptions about others based
      on what they have and our assumptions of how they got it. If we allow
      this kind of thinking to go on and become a habit then we fall further
      and further into its grasp. Envy is a trap, baited with the desire of
      good things for ourselves, but which leads only to a permanent state of
      dissatisfaction, never enjoying what we have and always desiring that
      which we do not.

      Envy has its roots in dissatisfaction with God’s providence, which is
      also, in turn, a symptom of lack of love for God. When we love someone,
      we eagerly receive from them every gift and hold it in great value. What
      parent does not have some treasure given him by his child – a drawing or
      some other simple thing – that he treasures above all else and which is
      priceless to him (even though that child may have become an adult with
      children of his own). In this way we who love God will treasure every
      thing that He sends to us no matter how simple or even externally
      unattractive it may be, for it comes from the One Whom we love. If I
      truly love God, then there is nothing anyone else might have that is
      more desirable or more valuable than that which God has given to me
      personally. If I love God then I will want for nothing, for what I do
      not have pales in comparison with what God has already given me.

      One of the insidious effects of envy on the soul is that by constantly
      looking at what others have, I neglect to see what I already have
      myself. I do not see what God has indeed given me for I am too busy
      focusing on what someone else has. I overlook the many blessings that
      God has bestowed on me and look instead at what I do not have. This then
      creates the idea that I have nothing – for I don’t know what I do have
      and I don’t have what others have. If I come to believe then that God
      has given me nothing, then my love for Him fades and grows weak. This
      then creates a downward spiral leading into the trap of pervasive
      dissatisfaction and finally despair.

      How then do we break out of this trap, or better yet how do we avoid it
      in the first place. Of course the first and most important thing is to
      fan the flame of our love for God. This we do with prayer – the more
      fervent the better. Even if we can only pray for a short time each day,
      that serves as a beginning and a foundation upon which to build. Set
      aside a block of time each day dedicated exclusively to prayer – or
      better yet set aside a few blocks of time. It is not important at the
      beginning if these are short times – 5 or 10 minutes for example – so
      long as they are dedicated to uninterrupted prayer. During this time
      simply pray – use the Our Father, the Jesus Prayer, the psalms or a
      collection of your own favorite prayers. It doesn’t matter how many
      prayers you say – only that this time is filled with prayer. Perhaps you
      will only say one prayer during this time or perhaps you will say a
      thousand. Quantity is of no importance as long as the prayer is said
      with the complete attention of your mind and the feeling of your heart.
      Such prayer, that is communion with God, will begin to fan the flame of
      love of God in your heart so that it becomes an all consuming fire.

      Secondly, be diligent about giving thanks to God for His many gifts. At
      the end of each day, before you sleep, think back on everything that you
      did, everything that happened and give thanks to God for every blessing
      and help no matter how large or small. In this way you will begin to see
      more and more clearly the loving providence of God in your life by which
      you will begin to recognize ever more clearly the abundant gifts that He
      bestows upon you each day.

      Finally, when you see that someone else has received something good – do
      not wish that you could have it too, but instead rejoice with them. Be
      joyful on their account that God has so blessed them and pray for them
      that they will recognize the love of God in what they have received.

      Envy is a pervasive sin – a passion so great in that it fosters so many
      other sins that the whole 10th commandment is devoted to it. If it gets
      a hold in the heart, then it can be destructive, dragging its victim
      down into the trap of grumbling and despair. Beware of envy and fight
      against this passion. Fight against it by prayer which will fan the
      flame of God’s love in your heart. Fight against it by thanksgiving and
      fight against it by rejoicing with others. These things, love of God,
      prayer, thanksgiving and mutual rejoicing, will banish envy from your
      heart and protect you from it ravages. You will become content with all
      that God has given, trusting in Him to provide for your all good things
      that are for your salvation. Such complete trust in God and contentment
      with all that He gives you is the path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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