Sunday, September 20, 2009  Nobody wins when we act like crabs and pull each other down.

Homily, Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fr. Ed. Oen, C.PP.S.

There are several species of crabs. One time I saw a crab in a bucket.  It was there by itself; it was able to climb up the side and get out of the top. But if you were to put four of five of the same crabs in a container, none of the crabs would get out because if one would try to escape, another would pinch it and pull it back. Envious people are much like that species of crabs.  They pull others down to their own level.

In today’s Second Reading, St. James writes that envy has caused wars, conflicts and disputes. Envy is one of the seven capital or cardinal sins. Others include Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, and Pride. The word “capital” comes from the Latin word, “capit” – meaning the top or head. Envy is one of the head sins from which many other sins flow. Envy is a source of lying and gossiping. The Bible gives numerous examples of envious people. Cain was envious of Able because Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing to God. Cain ended up murdering Able. Joseph’s brothers were envious. Remember, Jacob had twelve sons. Jacob had two main wives and two auxiliary wives; he had children with each of these main wives. It turned out that Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. Rachel had two children: Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob gloated on those two boys; this sowed envy with the brothers. Finally, they had a chance to sell Joseph to the Egyptians. The Israelites were the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob. They were divided into twelve tribes, each descended from one of twelve sons or grandsons of Jacob. After a couple hundred years, they were able to unite as one nation. Saul was the first king; he was rather successful. Goliath then enters the story. In a battle with the Philistines, David offers to take on their champion warrior. David declines the use of armor and instead uses a slingshot -- and he kills Goliath. Later on, David was even more successful in battle than Saul. When David returned to Jerusalem, the women lined the streets and sang, “Saul killed his thousands but David killed his ten-thousands.” Saul was stunned to the heart. He said that the people were giving more recognition to one of his soldiers than to the king. Saul attempts to kill David on several occasions, throwing spears at him that David ducked. Saul eventually lost his mind; David was the next king of Israel. It was because of envy that Saul got into all kinds of problems.

The Apostles too have envy among themselves. James and John were asking who would be first. Jesus often had to remind them that whoever would be first would be last and would be the servant of all.

What do we do when a feeling of envy comes into our hearts?  When we have a feeling of envy, we all need to say a prayer – we all have so much to be thankful for. We should praise God with the gifts and talents that we have. We can also pray for persons that we are envious of. Think of something nice to say when the name of the person we are envious of comes up in conversation. Too often though when someone’s name comes up in conversation, people want to talk about the faults of that person. There is goodness if everybody. Instead of praying that we increase our possessions, we need to pray for happiness that comes from taking time with our family and friends. If you have all the riches in the world, and did not have someone to share it with, you’d never be happy. Let’s say you are the only person living and you fill this whole church with gold and diamonds – but there is no one to share it with. It sounds a little bit beyond help – when you have no one to share it with. Having more, getting more – and getting it the easiest way possible is not going to bring anyone happiness. We have to have certain things to live – but just to accumulate these things should not be our goal. If we belittle others around us, many times we won’t live up to their potential. We’ve got to show others that we care about them, that we learn from them and let them be a compliment to the church and the community. Nobody wins when we act like crabs and pull each other down. This morning we ask Jesus to help us build up our community, to build up our own lives. We who have gifts have to figure our ways to share them with other people.

One of the big discussions at the present time in our Congress is how to provide health insurance to all people. People are shouting things – and many times they have not even read the legislation. Of course there are many pages to read.  But, the thing that we are really talking about is greed. Certain people don’t want to change the way things are. You think of 48 million people who don’t have health insurance. If you took all the people living in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas – the entire heart or center of the United States, that still would not equal 48 million people. It wouldn’t even be close yet. Yet it’s 48 million people who have no health insurance. People are losing their jobs and they lose their insurance. Bishops recently published an article in Catholic papers, including The Leaven. I asked some people about it and they said that it was so long that they laid it aside and had not read it.

I know that our President is trying very hard to be equitable. Perhaps some of the things that he says are a little exaggerated, but we still have to work at it. As we know a couple of weeks ago, the President addressed all the legislators. Generally, a joint session is a setting where the President is treated with great dignity and honor. Yet, when the President stated that funding for any health care reform would not go to illegal immigrants, one of the House Members yelled out, “You lie.” Perhaps that is true – but that’s not a way to speak in open assembly. People who are immigrants are many times the people who need the insurance more than others. Instead of practicing preventive care, they end up not seeing a doctor or dentist for years and then have to go to the emergency room where the bills get higher and higher. The big health insurance companies are those who are shouting the loudest. They make $35 or $45 billion dollars annually; they don’t want to change the system. Some people blame the doctors; they made $15 billion – but they are not nearly as rich as the big drug companies; they don’t want to change. We should pray about that and realize this issue and realize it is not easy to live a life without any kind of insurance. All this is a sort of envy ... in other words, it is when anyone doesn’t want anyone else to get anything more out of the system than they are. On the other hand, we should thank God that we have good jobs, that we can make a living. And we need to also realize that many people want to work but no work may be available.

This morning we ask the Lord to help us avoid conflicts. Wars are not fought just between countries; they are fought between people. There is a certain tension in every Parish; one group wants this, another group wants that. In the end we have to come together in some kind of middle ground. A lot of times it is based on envy: “This person is going to get something that I don’t have or I don’t think they deserve, or I don’t want them to have” – and so envy raises its head. I hope you re-read the Second Reading from this morning’s Mass when St. James writes about how wars and conflicts all stem from the capital sin, envy.

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