Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Tall Poppies!
Trying to cut a person down to size is a well known habit. Anyone who appears to be more successful in life and holds a high profile in society can be the target of this insidious tendency. All three readings today present examples of people being challenged in this way.

Ezechiel 2:2-5: Like so many before him, and so many who would come after him, Ezechiel was to have a problem with those to whom he was being sent as God's messenger, and his credentials would be questioned.

2 Cor. 12:7-10: Paul is under great emotional strain when writing this letter to the Corinthians. They had been critical of his presentation, and they resented the special gifts with which he was endowed.

Mark 6:1-6: The Gospel completes the picture of rejection based on envy - "Is not this the carpenter's son - the son of Mary" As the Jewish custom was to refer to a man as the son of his father, the intended insult to Jesus is clear.

Point 1: I am told that the Irish have a phrase -"Who does he think he is"! It is used when one wants to cut a person down to size, particularly one who appears to have been more successful in life. In most instances, it is the voice of envy. I want to speak on this subject of envy today, because it is an insidious fault affecting many people. It is closely related to the vices of greed and jealousy, but it is distinct from these character flaws. Greed drives a person to accumulate; jealousy wants to share, or, at worse, to take for itself that which another has. Envy, however, simply wishes to deprive another of his or her success. Envy is totally negative. As revealed in our quoted phrase, "who does he think he is", envy seeks to diminish, to weaken, to devastate, even to destroy, the person envied. It may be the successful business person, the attractive woman, the handsome man, the bright student, even the happily married couple, all can be the object of the envious.

Point 2: The strange thing is that the victims of envy rarely understand why their success so irritates the other. And, in order to placate their critics, many bend over backwards to please; and this only causes greater aggravation. They are thenĀ  accused of being patronising - "Don't you patronise me"! . It is probably the ugliest and most abhorrent of all sins. No doubt this is why it has been listed amongst the deadly sins. You remember? - pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, and sloth. Being angry at seeing other people happy and successful can almost be described as being a sin against life. It is a form of sickness; I wonder is that why we say "people are green with envy". Green is the colour usually associated with sickness, particularly sea sickness.

Conclusion: The big problem with envy is that it generates so much conflict in a community; and frequently, because of this conflict, so much good is left undone. People are inclined to back off and adopt an attitude of "what the heck" rather than put up with the unjustified criticism directed at them. Our Australian habit of "cutting down tall poppies" can frequently be associated with envy. Those who dabble in such matters tell us that, after the desire for food and sex, envy is one of the more powerful forms of human motivation. That is why, as we seek to strengthen our Christian character, we ought to look regularly at ourselves to see whether our habits of criticism, of complaining and of moral self-righteousness are more motivated by envy than anything else.

Scriptural reference: If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:25-26)