Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sermon Notes: Saul's Jealousy, Robbed of Joy

Reflection for Communion Service
St. Vincent de Paul Parish
Thursday Week II of Ordinary Time
Optional Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr
January 23, 2014

Saul’s Jealousy: Today’s first reading is a classic lesson on jealousy or envy, one of the capital or 7 deadly sins. David returns home just having slayed Goliath, and the crowd goes wild: “the women came out from each of the cities of Israel to meet King Saul, singing and dancing, with tambourines, joyful songs, and sistrums...‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’” (1Sm 18:6). The Westlake cheerleaders might as well have shouted Nick Foles had 56, but Drew Brees had only 31 touchdowns! And like any man would react, “Saul was jealous of David” (1Sm 18:9).
Jealousy, what is it: Jealousy is clearly bad, something on which we all agree. Yet, what is it that makes Saul jealous and not simply admire David? Does he not see in David good things worth imitating? What is the difference between admiration and jealousy?

Vainglory: There are two aspects of Saul’s jealousy towards David. The first is that which Saul desires in David. In the tradition of the Church’s moral teaching, jealousy is seen as an offspring of the desire for vainglory, that is, fame, money, power, glory, and pleasure. As long as we do not desire such things, our admiration remains pure. Indeed, jealousy is a type of “zeal,” that is, a drive to obtain what we do not have, yet admire in the other. [1] St. Paul even exhorts us to “Be zealous for spiritual gifts.”[2] Yet, if that desire or zeal is oriented towards bad things, vainglory, it is sinful and instead of causing the joy of admiration leaves us in the sorrow or grief of our own lack. This is most true in the case of Saul who desires the fame and glory bestowed by these women upon David for his triumph against the Philistine, Goliath. Because, therefore, Saul desires in David earthly gifts which are passing and do not give true happiness, his jealousy and envy begets sorrow and grief in his soul.

Joy: This leads to the second aspect of Saul’s jealousy: joy, or lack thereof. St. Thomas Aquinas says that our grief or sorrow (jealousy) over our own lack is sinful because it causes us “to grieve over what should make us rejoice.”[3] Here St. Thomas is tapping into another of St. Paul’s teachings on the Mystical Body of Christ when he says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”[4] Saul should rejoice with the women for such a great defeat of their enemy for as St. Paul gives reason for this teaching, such honors or gifts are possessed by the whole body; David’s victory is Saul’s victory. There is nothing of which to be jealous. Thus, instead of rejoicing in David’s gift of victory, Saul murmurs thoughts of his death, jealous of his fame and glory.

For Us: This is best understood for us by analogy of our children. We are never jealous of the beautiful and wonderful things our children accomplish, even if we were not able to do them ourselves, because we understand that in a way it is ours as well. It brings joy and happiness to the whole family. This comes easy because we love our children. Love keeps us away from jealousy. Indeed, jealousy is a sin against charity, or the virtue of love. Looking then at our brothers and sisters in the work place and in daily life, let us remember to love them so as to rejoice with them as they receive accolades or recognition, for we can share in their joy or remain in our own grief.

[1] Cf. ST II-II q. 36 art. 2: “We may grieve over another’s good, not because he has it, but because the good which eh has, we have not: and this, properly speaking, is zeal, as the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii. 9).”
[2] Cf. Ibid, citing 1Cor 14:1
[3] Ibid
[4] 1Cor 12:26

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