Wednesday, 1/10/18 — When Others Seem More Blessed Than You

What’s the first negative human emotion mentioned in the Bible that’s directed at another human? I don’t think it’s related to Adam and Eve; although they disobeyed God, they didn’t seem to be motivated by anything other than poor judgment (or, at the very least, Sacred Scripture doesn’t offer much specific insight into the emotions driving their actions). No, the first negative emotion I’m comfortable labeling is jealousy, in the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4:4-7: “The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: ‘Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.'”

In other words, the first emotion in the Bible is jealousy of God favoring someone else instead of you.

Why did this kind of jealousy come to mind as I reflected on today’s readings? Well, the first reading is about Eli guiding Samuel to hearing and understanding the Lord’s call. I’ve written in the past about how Eli’s story speaks to me, by noting that your purpose might be to help others find their way to God. But today I’ve looked at that same lesson from another point: How incredible is it that Eli doesn’t feel any jealousy?

One parable I’ve always struggled with is Christ’s teaching about the lost sheep — tangentially referred to in today’s “Allelluia” proclamation — which describes how Jesus will come and seek out one lost member of his flock rather than tend to the 99 who are still part of his fold. And I struggle with it because, really, what believer doesn’t want a personal encounter with Christ? To have him come to you directly, to provide one-on-one care? Why do 99 members of the flock not get that, but the errant one does?

In a similar vein, putting myself in the shoes of Eli, I imagine I would have to be very careful with my emotions when Samuel came to me for advise: “Hey, for some reason God has picked me to do awesome things! Isn’t that great? Can you help me out with that?” Where’s my vision from God?

Of course, such emotions are really lousy and pretty detrimental to having a life with the Lord. But it’s still a human emotion, one that’s best for me to acknowledge and work my way through. Look at today’s Gospel selection from Mark: “The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons . . .” It doesn’t say he cured all who were sick, so it’s quite possible some were left wondering why God didn’t choose to help them.

And I’m afraid I don’t have any one-size-fits-all answer for that. But I have some observations:

• If you’re looking for Jesus to save you, congratulations! He did . . . 2,000 years ago, with his death and resurrection.

• The story of the prodigal son addresses some of this concern, with the story of the son left behind, and the father’s words: “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.” Again, the offer of salvation is a tremendous one, and a life with the gifts of the Spirit can be tremendously rich.

• If someone seems to be blessed by God — and even if they claim to be so blessed — that doesn’t mean it’s so. Remember: God didn’t promise us material wealth, an easy life on Earth, or tangible prosperity. (Lots of obviously ungodly people are rich and using their wealth against the wishes of God.) Jesus was concerned with our eternal lives, and warned time and again that worldly belongings were quite possibly a detriment to salvation. So if you’re jealous about how a friend or associate seems to be doing better in money, wealth, or power, realize that there may now be two problems to pray about: your jealousy, and your friend’s salvation.

• For those in your life who do have more spiritual blessings than you, then consider how that gift radiates out from them to affect the larger world. There is no one in the cosmos with a greater understanding and appreciation of the “big picture” than God. (His plan of salvation was millennia in the making!) So if you see someone who seems favored by God in a way you don’t feel, try to see how that effort of God’s affects the larger picture. Understanding that we are all part of God’s flock, and can all play our own role in helping to bring the Kingdom to Earth, can do wonders to keep ill feelings at bay.

• Finally, if someone does seem to be blessed with more spiritual insight, or a truer connection to God, or other true gifts of the Spirit, and you feel that absence, consider yourself blessed! You have someone in your life who can serve as an inspiration and guide in expanding your life with Christ. I mean, if I were friends with Pope Francis, I hope I wouldn’t be kicking myself saying, “Darn; why can’t I be pope?”; I’d be honored to have a man of such powerful faith in my life!

If you still struggle with feelings of jealousy, remember that there’s always the Sacrament of Confession, and quite possibly other counseling possibilities offered by your parish.

Today’s readings offer so much to think about with our relationship with God. Whether you hear the call to follow some larger faith-filled pursuit like Samuel; or have the drive to nurture and support those who do feel such calls, like Eli; or are just desperately seeking Christ in your life, like the villagers who followed Jesus, know that you’re not alone . . . and may your journey bring you ever closer to God.

Today’s readings: 1 Sm 3:1-10,19-20; Ps 40:2 and 5,7-8A,8B-9,10; Mk 1:29-39

About the Author

Despite being a professional writer and editor for over 15 years, Steven Marsh is more-or-less winging it when it comes to writing about matters of faith. Steven entered the church in 2005, and since then he's been involved with various ministries, including Pre-Cana marriage prep for engaged couples, religious education for kindergarteners, and Stephen Ministry's one-on-one caregiving. Steven lives in Indiana with his wife and son. Despite having read the entirety of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he's still surprised at elements he rediscovers or reflects upon in new ways. The more Steven learns about the faith, the less he feels he knows; he's keen to emphasize that any mistakes are his own.

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16 Comments

  1. Steven, you have such a gift for providing new perspectives to reading the Daily Gospel. Very insightful!

  2. Steven,one of your gifts is creating a different and insightful perspective to the word of God in your reflections.God bless you.

  3. Great words today Steven, You have taken the negative of jealously and turned it into the positive of a blessing. This is something we all can apply. Thank you

  4. Hey Steven,

    Nice reflection. Just a few comments.

    First, with the lost sheep parable, remember his audience when he tells this parable. Also, read verse 7 over again. I hope that helps in answering your struggles.

    Second, I might be a little nit picking here, but I would argue that fear was the first emotion mentioned, Gn 3:10.

    Have a great day,

    Mark

  5. YOU are someone who has been blessed with more spiritual insight … and I AM grateful to be the beneficiary. Thank you for saying yes to Gos’s call to inspire the rest of us with your well-prepared reflections!

  6. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Mark, good point about Adam being afraid. I was thinking more about emotions directed at others, but it’s still a valid point (and makes me wonder, when we’re afraid, what is that emotion directed at?). I’ve rewritten the first sentence to: “What’s the first negative human emotion mentioned in the Bible that’s directed at another human?” Hopefully that covers my bases. :-)

  7. Thank you Steven for continuing to share your insights with us all
    On this site. You certainly have the gift of finding the message that
    Would elude some of us.

  8. Thank you so much Steven for your reflection. It reminded me to be very much thankful for the the blessings God gave me. More blessings to you and your family.

  9. Steven, very nice reflection, last week’s “plaque – sin” was really good. I have not been commenting in quite some time but I do look to start my day off reading reflections, as I have been over 2 years now. Thanks and blessings be upon all the writers here.
    I just wanted to tell you something I heard long ago. I can only imagine you have seen drawings or images of Christ holding that lamb on his shoulders? Supposedly the lost sheep??? I heard it was commen in those days for a
    shepard to break or injure one of lost sheep legs and it would carry it on his shoulders and nurture it back to walk on its own. In doing so, that sheep would not leave the fold or his master again. Also, as you kind of skirted around, that Blessings come in ways that we as humans perceive to be bad things that happen in our life. As one might say “A Blessing in disguise “. I think Marks comment about fear is not unwarranted.
    Thanks Steven, Joe, Mary, Bob, Dan and crew for all you have feed me over the years.

  10. Steven,

    thanks for sharing. It’s hard living in such a materialistic world. Who wouldn’t be wowed by a brand new sports car, right? It easily blinds us.

    so my fave passage from your write-up:

    Jesus was concerned with our eternal lives, and warned time and again that worldly belongings were quite possibly a detriment to salvation. So if you’re jealous about how a friend or associate seems to be doing better in money, wealth, or power, realize that there may now be two problems to pray about: your jealousy, and your friend’s salvation.

  11. Thank you Steven, great reflection! We are all part of God’s flock and can all play our own role In helping to bring the Kingdom to Earth. I really like that very much!!
    God bless you always Steven.

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