Most of us know the story of St Mother Teresa of Calcutta. How she and the other sisters in her order devoted their lives to the care of the poorest in India. She helped people to find hope even in in the worst possible conditions one can find in our world. She was canonized a saint for her work and her love for others. And that love for others and for Christ continues through the religious order she founded, Missionaries of Charity, today in many parts of the world.
But even with all the love she had for the marginalized and poor, she had enemies. There were those who complained about the medical care that she and her order provided. Some said that people suffered too much under her care. Some claimed that Mother Teresa was more interested in forcing the death bed conversions of many of her patients to the Catholic faith. And there were many others who tried to discredit her love for others.
Mother Teresa’ life was a witness to the love and the truth of Jesus Christ. And what we hear in our first reading this morning is a powerful description of how many in our world will attempt to distort that truth in so many ways.
We see he same issue in the gospel where we hear again how the religious leaders consider Jesus, as an “inconvenience” because he challenged their way of life. Jesus’ one and only truth was an obstacle for them.
What we see taking place in both of these examples is that the good person, simply by being good, is thought of as passing judgment on someone’ way of living. Their holiness is a threat. And the way that many deal with the threat is to eliminate them. In Jesus’ case they tried to eliminate him physically. But in most cases, the good person, the person who pursues the truth, is destroyed socially by gossip and lies.
Ultimately, in these examples, we are talking about the effects of the vice, the sin of envy. Envy hates to see others happy, or good, or holy. St Thomas Aquinas describes envy as a kind of sadness which results from feeling that God’ gifts to another person somehow takes away another’ worth. And St Thomas says that not only does the envious person feel that the gifts to others are a threat to them but they also end up envying the source of those gifts, almighty God himself.
For Thomas Aquinas the cure for envy is love. He said that we can so easily see how powerful a vice envy is. That we all struggle with it to some degree in our lives. But there is something so much more powerful. And that is love. Loving others as we must, allows us to see that the gifts and talents that others possess are truly a blessing from God.
And when we can find it in our hearts to be grateful for all the blessings that we have received and at the same time grateful for the blessings that others have received than we have found a way to defeat the vice of envy. Because then we have come to acknowledge our dependence on God. That all gifts and all talents, given to whoever, are a gift from God.
And when we acknowledge our love for God and our love for others, then there is no room in that kind of relationship for envy.
I’ll end with this quote from St Thomas Aquinas: “The gifts of God to those I love, I will experience as gifts, in which I share”.