Praised be Jesus Christ! Once I was taking a course that was comprised of one other priest and a half a dozen seminarians. I re- member the enthusiasm of the seminarians as they frequently asked about the joys and sorrows of the life they would soon be living. One day these future priests were discussing whether they’d be able to handle all the hard work that would be expected of them. At this point the other priest immediately interjected: “All that work – it’s not worth it. What’s the point of wearing yourself out when all you’ll get out of it is a nice funeral and a few kind words from the Bishop. You’re better off pacing yourself and living a full life.” Without judging that priest, I always thought his statement revealed a divided heart, one that was not totally given to the vocation he was living. For the record, my heart is divided too – that’s what the last two Commandments are all about: coveting neighbor and our neighbor’s goods. An undivided heart is one that truly loves God above all things and our neighbor as our self. Because we are fallen creatures, we covet many things and people that lead us away from God and the happiness that He alone can give. These two Commandments give us the chance to briefly distinguish between envy and jealousy. The former is a deadly sin and ultimately led Cain to kill his brother Abel. Envy is basically pain at another’s good fortune. Some of us experienced this when we were passed over in athletics or academics. Others feel threatened by the beauty or popularity of people and want to bring them down a notch. Envy can also take the form of schadenfreude, which is the pleasure we derive from another person’s misfortune. For example, O.J. Simpson’s fall from grace was a sad moment that caused some people to rejoice as we witnessed the self-destruction of a high- profile person. Coveting a person’s things can be an expression of envy, which is always sinful because it leads to resentment and even hatred. On the other hand, coveting can be mere jealousy, which is still disordered but not nearly as dangerous. I kiddingly tell folks that jealousy is what people experience when they see my car – i.e. they’d love to have one just like it! Envy is the seething resentment that another person has something or simply that they are happy, whereas jealousy is a milder form of coveting that is not nearly as dangerous. Coveting things is less dangerous than coveting people – the latter is nicely conveyed in the lyrics from Cheap Trick’s song “I Want You to Want Me.” Have you ever felt “wanted” by someone – it’s certainly an ego trip and something that can dazzle us because of our innate insecurity. But wanting a person and loving a person are very different things and God teaches us to hold out for love. People who live covetously are like locusts that move across a field, consuming every- thing in their path without ever really finding satisfaction. Saint Ignatius discovered this while recovering from a war injury and subsequently wrote his famous Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius realized that we have infinite desires but that we try to satisfy them with finite things. This is the source of a lot of unhappiness in our world. Remember the tippler from The Little Prince? He was asked why he drank . . . “to forget.” “To forget what?” “That I drink.” Thank God that Jesus came to break the cycle and show us the way to the Father, Who alone satisfies the hungry heart!
May this Holy Week help us and heal us in the most vulnerable places in our hearts!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin