How can they be passing through the Pearly Gates?
How many of you have ever struggled with jealousy?
Oh, jealousy, that ugly response that can lead to ugly things!
We all fall prey, do we not?
I can recall Gordon Appleton, athletic, blond high school swim team star,
who effortlessly swam to victory.
I was not happy with second place.
I was uglily jealous. And, as a result, I never got to know him.
Jealousy is sadness at another person’s good: looks, achievements, possessions, position, relationships, whatever.
Sadness at good? Terribly disordered.
In Shakespeare’s tragedy “Othello”, the general is wrongly convinced by Lago, junior officer at his command, that his wife is unfaithful.
We hear Lago say,
O beware, O lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meet on which it feeds.
Jealousy plays tricks on the mind. And, heart.
St. Augustine (+430) says, “He that is jealous is not in love.”
As it intensifies, jealousy becomes envy—deadly sin.
The sadness at another person’s good becomes anger and contempt, with a desire to destroy the good.
Terribly, terribly disordered.
Hence, the words of Proverbs 14:30,
“A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot”.
The book of Wisdom (2:24) reminds us,
“By the envy of the Devil death entered the world”.
The chief priests and elders are jealous, becoming envious, of Jesus, and are unable to hear and welcome him.
Just before this passage, in the first half of Matthew 21, we have Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus cleansing the Temple, and Jesus “cursing” the fig tree—all displays of authority, which these leaders either witnessed or learned.
Their response? A question, but not a question seeking truth and encounter: By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?
Jesus refuses to engage. Jesus never wastes His time. He is not dismissive, and, in fact, mercifully gives them an opportunity to think, thinkers that they should be. He meets them somewhat on their turf, but, quickly moves on.
Matthew 7:6 comes to mind: Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.
Rabanus Maurus, Archbishop of Mainz in Germany, in the early part of the 9th century, comments on this passage, saying, There are two reasons why the knowledge of truth should be kept back from those who ask; either when he who asks is unfit to receive, or from his hatred or contempt of the truth is unworthy to have that which he asks opened to him.
Jesus is not going to share what is in His heart. And, yet He does! He “moves on”
to revealing things of the will of God and the Kingdom of God. Revelation is Jesus sharing what is in His heart…
The will of God is not, as we sometimes think, specific courses of action, the game-plan of God, but relationship with God. Our relationship with God begins and ends with the attraction of God. We respond to Him who first loves us. (cf. I John 4:19) Our response must be real and concrete.
“Let us love in truth and action” St. John tells us (I John 3:18).
“The proof is in the pudding” (a wonderful 14th century expression).
There is a liberating truth revealed in this parable. Which son “did the will of his father”? The first. The one whose response was not immediately enthusiastic, but who came around and acted.
There may be times, in our relationship to God, when we are not enthusiastic, when we are indifferent and feel like we are going through the motions. There may be times when our response to God’s invitation is negative, and we get entangled in other stuff.
Worry not! It is never too late to come around —like the workers of the 11th-hour in last Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 20:1-16). The wasted time is not held against us.
The kingdom of God is not, as we sometimes think, a place or a set of ideals or a way of life. The kingdom of God is also, in the end, relationship with God, the King.
And, the most unlikely people are entering into this relationship. Tax collectors and prostitutes! In other words, those whose lives are very messy,
whose lives do not seem to be an immediately enthusiastic response to God’s invitation, those who got entangled in other stuff.
There is a liberating truth revealed in this. Our brokenness is not a hindrance to God’s attraction, to God at work in us, inviting us into relationship. All we must do is, in the midst of the brokenness, aware of our unworthiness, is cry out in faith.
Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof,
but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.