Christians must close the doors to the jealousies, envy and gossip that divide and destroy our communities: that’s what Pope Francis stressed in his homily at Mass in the Santa Marta guesthouse Thursday morning.
The Pope’s remarks take on added meaning because today marks the sixth day of prayer for Christian unity which culminates Saturday with the celebration of Vespers presided by Pope Francis in the Rome Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflects on the day’s first reading which recalls the victory of the Israelites over the Philistines – thanks to the courageous actions of the young David. But, King Saul’s joy over the victory soon turns to sadness and jealousy when he sees the women praising David for killing Goliath. So, “that great victory,” Pope Francis says, “begins to undergo defeat in the heart of the King” and like Cain, the “worm of jealousy and envy” begins to insinuate itself in its place. And again like Cain and Abel, the king decides to kill David. “This is what jealousy does in our hearts,” observes the Pope. “It is a destructive anxiety (it: inquietudine cattiva), which cannot tolerate that a brother or sister has something that I have not.” Saul, “instead of praising God for this victory as did the women of Israel, prefers to withdraw into himself, feeling sorry for himself (it. rammaricarsi)” and “stew his feelings in the broth of bitterness.”
“Jealousy leads to murder. Envy leads to murder,” the Pope says. “It was this door, the door of envy, through which the devil entered the world.” “Jealousy and envy open the doors,” the Pope says, to “all evil things…They also divide the community.”
When some members of a Christian community suffer from envy and jealousy, the Pope reminds us, the community “ends up divided: one against the other.” And “this is a strong poison – a poison that we find on the first page of the Bible in Cain.”
Pope Francis goes on to say that in the heart of a person affected by jealousy and envy ” two things are very clear.” The first thing is bitterness:
“The envious person, the jealous person, is a bitter person who doesn’t know how to sing, how to praise, (or) know what joy is.” This kind of person, reflects the Pope, always looks at what someone else has that he or she does not have . “And this leads to bitterness, a bitterness that spreads throughout the whole community.” These people, he says, are the “sowers of bitterness.”
The second approach, the Pope remarks, that “brings jealousy and envy, are rumors.” When someone cannot stand to see that someone else has something he wishes for himself, Pope Francis says often, the “solution is to put the other person down” so that “I am a bit higher up.” And the tool used to do this, the Pope points out, is “gossip.” Behind every rumor, says the Pope, “there is jealousy and envy. And gossip divides the community, destroys the community. Rumors are the weapons of the devil.”
“How many beautiful Christian communities,” the Pope exclaimed, “were getting along well,” but then were divided and destroyed because one member allowed the “worm of jealousy and envy” to enter his heart. And with it, come “sadness, resentment and gossip.” A person under the influence of envy and jealousy, the Pope insists, “kills.”
In concluding, Pope Francis called for prayer for “our Christian communities so that this seed of jealousy will not be sown between us, so that envy will not take root in our heart, in the heart of our communities, and so we can move forward with praise to the Lord, praising the Lord with joy. It is a great grace, the grace of not falling into sadness, being resentful, jealous and envious.”
Let us pray for peace, and let us bring it about, starting in our own homes!