Readings for September 23, 2018
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
The 1939 MGM production of the Wizard of Oz was widely acclaimed for its use of technicolor to enhance the story. Along with the ruby slippers and the yellow brick road, probably the most memorable color from the movie was the skin of the Wicked Witch of the West. She was green, the color of envy. The Wicked Witch was envious of the Good Witch of the East, envious of the residents of Oz, and, of course, envious of Dorothy, who “killed” her sister and “stole” her ruby slippers. In this portrayal the Wicked Witch of the West and her green skin are meant to be ugly because envy is ugly.
St. James seems to agree with this interpretation. “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice,” he says. In other words, “green doesn’t look good on you.” The Book of Wisdom paints a similar picture of the ugliness of jealousy when the wicked say, “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings … Let us condemn him to a shameful death.” Jesus gives a similar warning to his disciples, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him.” Not understanding the warning and fearful of what he meant, they turn on each other and Jesus catches them bickering about who is the greatest. The moral of this week’s readings seems to be: jealousy and selfish ambition are killers–foul practices that destruct order, lay ruin to relationships, and even claim to the life of our Savior.
Unfortunately, I am not immune to jealousy or selfish ambition. I am personally familiar with the apostles’ argument about who is the greatest, particularly at work. Even while gathered with friends, I am sometimes that guy whose story must be the one story that’s better than the others. I am competitive by nature (or by nurture–I grew up with three brothers!) and my drive to “win” is often just a manifestation of envy. It’s one of my many weaknesses, and it sometimes bleeds into my faith as well. I catch myself comparing my faith to the faith of others, feeling frustrated if my faith doesn’t stack up.
But Jesus doesn’t want my faith to be a competition. Jesus wants me to love him like a child loves their mother or their best friend or just about anyone who shows kindness to them. There is an innocence in a love that loves just because, instead of doing so with a goal to “win.” And that’s what I need to strive for in my relationship with Jesus. Only in loving others do I allow God to paint with His true colors–no envy, no jealousy, no sowing of discord. Serving others serves God.
Lord Jesus, color my world with love of others. May I live with the faith of a child, innocent in my belief and hope in you alone. I ask this in your name, who lives and reigns with God the Father, in unity with the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen