Catholic homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Where Jealousy and Ambition Exist
By: Fr. Luke Ijezie
Homily for Sunday September 19 2021
1. The readings of this 25th Sunday of the year touch the very core of the problems that inhibit our progress in our various social and existential settings.
Just a little illustration: There is this story of two brothers in one of our communities. One was very progressive and the other was not. The more progressive one was younger and he was the breadwinner of the family. Incidentally, the elderly less progressive one hated his brother with passion, even though this his younger brother continued to provide for his needs. When their parents were asked why such hatred should exist, both parents explained that this elderly one had from childhood been very jealous of his younger brother because the younger always exhibited greater wisdom and resourcefulness. This Jealousy prevented him from developing his own talents because he was always envying his brother. He grew up to see his brother’s fortunes as responsible for his own misfortunes.
This story recalls to memory the story of Cain and Abel. One finds similar instances in many families and communities. There is this popular perception that village people are jealous and dangerous. But it is not only village people. It is a common phenomenon in our African society. It often leads to open violence and ends up destroying the harmony and progress of the social group.
2. The second reading from James 3:16-4:3 hits the nail on the head, when it says: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (3:16). Jealousy is often caused by inordinate ambition to possess what the other possesses. If the desire is not properly controlled, it leads to hate, conflict, destructive conduct and constant warfare. Both passions of jealousy and ambition easily develop into a cankerworm that destroys a family, a community and a nation. One finds it everywhere: in the political circle, in educational institutions, in business circles and even in religious settings and communities. The Apostle James warns that people with such passions hardly have their prayers answered because they either ask wrongly or ask to fulfil their evil passions.
Sometimes, it is good to pause and ask where all the wrangling and bitterness that divide us come from? Is it not mostly from mutual jealousy and inordinate passion to possess what the other already possesses? People complain, steal, poison others, kill, maim and destroy out of envy and jealousy.
3. The Community of Jesus was not immune from these passions. Envy and ambition for power reigned supreme in the early Christian community. It is within that background that the admonitions of Jesus in the Gospel of today is preached. The struggle for who is the greatest or who occupies which post often makes the Christian Community to forget its primary mission and obligation. Just as it happens in the Gospel text from Mark 9:30-37, while Jesus was speaking about the all important mission of human redemption that he was to accomplish in Jerusalem, his disciples did not understand and they were afraid to ask questions because they were not interested. Rather, they preferred to enter into conflict about who was the greatest among them. They erroneously interpreted the mission of Jesus in Jerusalem as that of power sharing. So it was better now to struggle for the greater piece of the power cake. Jesus was disappointed and used the opportunity to catechise them on the modus of Christian leadership: it is not power wielding but humble service. It is a selfless service, so selfless that one could even offer oneself for the benefit of one’s community. The leader must be as simple as a child. The childlike humility or simplicity is free from jealousy and selfish ambition.
The struggle for power in religious communities is often very violent, and through it many have betrayed the Cross of Christ and the entire Christian mission. The worst is that those with unbridled love for power see every righteous person as an obstacle on their way. They do everything to suppress or eliminate him or her.These ambitious lovers of power are roundly condemned in the first reading.
4. The first reading from the book of Wisdom addresses the syndrome of jealousy and hatred of goodness. Evil people are usually out against the good people because their righteous mode of living is a reproach to them. It is not uncommon to see people hating you without cause. Sometimes they go the extra mile to frustrate every move you make. Why? The reason often is that your success reminds them of their chronic failure.
But how does one respond to such situation? The wise counsel from the letter of James is to remain pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and sincerity. But sometimes, there is nothing one can do to avoid being envied and hated. One can only keep striving and running to God for help as the Psalmist does today in Psalm 54:4-5: “O God, hear my prayer; hearken to the words of my mouth. For the proud have risen up against me, and the ruthless seek my life; they have no regard forGod.” This is the constant prayer of one who lives in a society where jealousy and selfish ambition reign supreme.
We pray that God may give us the wisdom to live in humility and simplicity with others and the openness of heart to appreciate and celebrate goodness and successes we find in other people!
Fr. Luke Ijezie