07 March 2007

Irksome Temptations

It is a consolation, in one way, to read in today's Gospel that even the disciples themselves were not above the temptation of resentment. As the mother of James and John asks Jesus to reserve for them places of honor in his kingdom, Jesus hints at the suffering which awaits him. One can almost imagine the early-Church grapevine as news of Zebedee's wife and her request filtered down to the rest of the group. Matthew tells us that, "When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers." Surely we can all relate to how the ten were feeling. Perhaps we have been passed over for a promotion or a special assignment at work; perhaps we have watched as someone whom we estimate to be unqualified or inexperienced is given an opportunity to move ahead at work or in school. Negotiating a variety of different emotions in the face of such an experience is very natural, as the apostles show us. Irksome

Even though the Gospel does not provide us with an insider account into how each of the ten apostles felt about the two whose mother asked that they have places of honor, it might be safe to guess that their emotions ranged from anger and resentment to envy and jealousy. And knowing that such strong reactions, especially envy and resentment -- within a small group such as the apostles -- are are recipe for discord and unrest, Jesus is quick to respond. Urging the disciples to seek to be servants instead of lords, he paints a very different picture of places of honor in his kingdom. When we notice, in the depths of our hearts, a stirring of these unsettling emotions, let us be encouraged that many before us have battled these temptations.
"It is an easy thing to abstain from murder, but it is very difficult to avoid those angry outbursts which are incessantly aroused within us. . . .In short, these lesser temptations -- anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, levity, folly, vanity, deception, impure thoughts -- are the continual trials of the most fervent and devout persons."
St. Francis de Sales

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