Anatomy of Envy

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) –  Wisdom 2:17-20; Psalms 54:3-4, 5, 6-8; James 3:16–4:3; Mark 9:30-37. This series usually appears each Wednesday.


Photography © by Andy Coan

Recently a prominent CEO told a mixed group of business leaders that, regardless of their religion, they simply had to read the Bible.  Why?  Because success in business depends not so much upon understanding financial reports as it does upon understanding people.  And when it comes to a book that reveals what makes people tick, there is none better than the Bible.

Perhaps Christians ought to pay heed to this businessman.  We often get our ideas about people more from our own wishful thinking than God’s inspired word.  We expect that people will applaud and honor us when we live upright lives that are honorable, chaste, and charitable.  We are shocked when they do the opposite.

Jesus wasn’t.  He had read this Sunday’s first reading from the book of Wisdom long before he began his public ministry.  He knew that the miracles that he performed to heal, feed, and deliver the poor, sick and downtrodden, the words he spoke which captivated them and gave them hope – all this might very well be perceived to be a blessing by many.  But he knew that to some, it would be perceived as a threat.

For what the people so abundantly received from Jesus served to remind everyone of just how little they had received from their religious leaders.  Both Wisdom and James describe the inner dynamic at work in the hearts of such people.  When good people come across someone more virtuous, they are grateful.  For they are reminded of what they can become, and it encourages them to pursue excellence.  They rejoice when the virtuous person is honored, and in fact lead the applause.  When wicked people come across someone more virtuous, they are furious.  Because such people serve as proof that the wicked could be different.  The virtuous person takes away their excuses and exposes their mediocrity, so they resent his success   Rather than emulate the hero and strive to accomplish similar things, they instead seek to destroy him and discredit his work thereby removing the embarrassing threat to their self-respect and their image.

This goes beyond what we customarily mean by the term jealousy, for it is not simply wishing to possess a good thing enjoyed by another.  Rather this sort of jealousy concludes, either through laziness or despair, that the good that it desires is impossible to attain, and so aims to obliterate it and the person possessing it.  It is the capital sin of envy, and often employs ingenious strategies to bring down its nemesis.

Jesus understood all this.  So amidst all the euphoria aroused by Jesus’ sensational ministry, he predicts that he will be tortured to death at the instigation of the “spiritual” leaders of his own people?

But Wisdom incarnate had a plan much wiser than the clever schemes of his cunning opponents.  Yes, they had it all worked out – he’d come to Jerusalem for the feast, as would the Roman procurator, the only one who could approve his execution.  They’d recruit a snitch from his inner circle.  They’d rig a kangaroo court, mustering the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night.  They’d manipulate Pilate with fear of losing the emperor’s favor.

But the worldly wisdom of envy was no match for the heavenly wisdom of Love.  All their maneuvering only served to advance the purposes of his own glorious plan of salvation.  The elaborate machinations of evil men played right into his hands, setting Him up to win the eternal forgiveness of those who plotted against him.

For Love, as St. Paul says in Romans 8, has the power to make everything work out to the good.  And that is the reason that the crucifix is the central image of the Catholic faith.  It is a symbol of faith, hope, and love.  Yes, it demonstrates how much he loves us.  But it also demonstrates that we have nothing to fear from the tragedies and calamities that have happened or could happen.  For if he can bring glory out of the shame of the cross, he can bring good out of anything.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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