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Combatting the Deadliest of Deadlies

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"Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope." ~ Josh Billings

There’s a lot going on in today’s 1st Reading (Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28), wherein we revisit the story of Israel’s son Joseph and his diabolical brothers. When coupled in fact with our Gospel Passage (Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46), the Parable of the Tenants, we certainly don’t find ourselves lacking for violence or evil, made manifest by way of two poignant tales showcasing mankind at his very worst. But first things first.

“Israel loved Joesph best of all his sons, for he was a child of his old age, and he had made him a long tunic,” Scripture tells us, a love which in turn stirred the envious wrath of Joseph’s brothers, so much so that the brothers begin to plot Joseph’s death. After capturing him however, they decide to take a page from Judas’ book instead and sell him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. A quick look ahead to tomorrow and next week‘s Readings reveals that we will not follow this fascinating and symbolically rich story to its conclusion, but it is my hope that we will revisit it again shortly. For the time being however, the topic at hand would appear to be the deadly sin of envy https://discover.hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/On-Envy-and-Turning-to-Christ-at-the-Buzzer.

While listening to Atlanta’s Catholic Radio Station AM1160 The Quest earlier this week https://thequestatlanta.com/ during one of their many fine call-in shows, I listened with great interest as a caller posed the following question: “Of the 7 Deadly Sins ~ those would be pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth ~ is there a hierarchical order in terms of their severity?” In other words, is one deadly sin worse than another and if so, which one(s) is/are the worst? Like many of you perhaps, I always attempt to answer the question in my own mind first when listening to programs such as these, prior to carefully listening to the host’s response. My initial reaction pertaining to this call was a quick “no;” Deadly sins are just that...deadly. As such, I concluded, they are all equally detrimental and ultimately destructive to a person’s soul. Well I’m glad the individual answering the calls that day possessed far deeper wisdom and insight on this topic than I.

He went on to explain that there is in fact an order as it relates to severity. Pride he explained was at the root of all sin. In many respects, it was at the root of sin’s entry into the world by way of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. He then went on to name envy as a sin far greater than some of the other deadly sins. With lust for instance, it’s origins are rooted at least in part with at least some element of love involved. A disordered take on love, one that has gone intrinsically awry for certain, but there was at one point some salvageable element and perhaps even the slight residue or remnant of love left in its wake. The same can be said for gluttony, as its origins are found in the love of food, a gift given to us by God to savor and enjoy, whether it be with family or friends. It’s only when we order the entire right side of the McValue Menu and half the left that it takes a perverse turn.

But with envy there is no fleeting enjoyment, nothing that was ever once north that went south. To quote the great Spanish Novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón, “Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it soothes their worries, and finally it rots their souls, allowing them to justify their meanness and their greed until they believe these to be virtues. Such people are convinced that the doors of heaven will be opened only to poor wretches like themselves who go through life without leaving any trace but their threadbare attempts to belittle others and to exclude - and destroy if possible - those who, by the simple fact of their existence, show up their own poorness of spirit, mind, and guts. Blessed be the one at whom the fools bark, because his soul will never belong to them.”

Envy, it would seem, shoots at others but wounds itself.

So how do we overcome a sin that, by virtue of our concupiscence, resides in the recesses of all our hearts? Well, for man, it is impossible.(Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27). We seek and rely on God’s grace, a topic I will write about in much greater detail this Sunday when we reflect upon John 4:5-42 in conjunction with First Scrutiny Sunday. Thirty minutes in Eucharistic Adoration every day reflecting on the virtue of gratitude and all of the blessings that God has given you is recommended. Everything, might I reiterate, is a gift from God.

And finally, to borrow the words of Catholic Counselor Michael Linn, “win the Interpersonal Battle.” He goes on to encourage those who struggle with envy to “Become analytical in asking questions about why you become envious and jealous of others. Talk to a professional or someone you trust to try and understand the underlying issues or past memories in which these behaviors began. Uncovering these root issues can help a person learn to overcome and release them.” And as always, when you fall ~ not if ~ you can partake of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be made clean. For there is no sin, even those counted amongst the most deadly of the “deadlies,”, that is greater that God’s unrelenting mercy and desire to forgive

“Lord, I lay my heart and my desires before you. Search my heart, know my thoughts and see if there is any grievous way in me. Show me where envy has caused me to pursue more over pursuing you. Realign my heart with your will for my life.” ~ Amen

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