Here in Canada we get a lot of snow! I remember making “snow forts” as a child growing up in our backyard. That was hard work! There was one year where we made the best “snow-fort” of all time! It was made out of little snow-balls and we built it so high that it looked like a castle! Putting one snow-ball on after the other, trying not to tear it down was the biggest challenge!
This concept of building up and not tearing down can also apply to our relationships with others as well. In our relationships with others, we need to desire to build people up and not tear them down. When we tear people down we commit a greater tragedy then tearing down a building or a snow-fort!
What do I mean by building people up? It begins with being grateful for the gifts and joys that each person possesses. It also means striving not to be super critical of the other. I was reading an article lately by a sister entitled Experts in Communion by Sr. Marie Laetitia Youchtchenko OP. She described our relationships with one another as a beautiful symphony where Christ is both the composer and the director.
Sister writes, “Christ is both the composer and the director-even more He is Music personified; each of us plays one’s partition (at His place which belongs to Him); the quality of the ensemble is not only the result of an individual effort but of the love we all have for music, of the desire to follow our Director, aiming at achieving symphonic beauty.”
Sister further writes, “If a musician wants to play louder, or does not listen to the other, if a triangle envies the role of an oboe, if a piano spends more time in criticizing the others instead of playing or if the first violin is convinced to be the director…there is no hope for a successful symphony.”
Keeping this image in mind of a symphony, where Christ is the director and we are the musicians, we can see that it is easy to lose sight of who we are and what a gift we are. It is easy to look at others and wish that we were just like them. We see the gifts of that person, we make the mistake of believing that certain persons have more value then we do. This is a lie! And what happens…we start to envy.
You might recall in the Gospel when the apostles are arguing with who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. What does Jesus say, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 4). Jesus is calling us to be humble…like a little child.
Envy according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “refers to sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly” (CCC 2539). Envy is a refusal of charity, a form of sadness at the good of another (c.f. CCC 2540). St. John of the Cross also speaks about a type of spiritual envy which is feeling sad because of the spiritual good you see in another. An example of spiritual envy would be something like sadness over the fact that another person shows more charitable works, they have a more generous disposition, they pray more etc… The sin of envy happens when you have sadness at seeing the good of another and try to rob him of that good.
There may be times that we feel sad that another person has something that we do not have. What do we do in those moments? We need to raise our eyes to God and thank God that this person has such a wonderful gift. Then we can pray to have that virtue ourselves! If we see a person being very generous, we can say, “Lord help me to be more generous” or if we see a person who is spending a lot of time in prayer with the Lord and we notice that we are not spending as much time with the Lord as we should we can say, “Lord, help me to spend more time with you…help me to pray better.”
The remedy for spiritual envy is charity. With charity, we see the power of love in others, and that is something to rejoice about. We need to always wish each other well. Even providing an encouraging word to that person can make a huge difference: “That was a really generous thing you did for her!” or “I was really edified by the fact that you were so patient and gentle with her.” Giving words of encouragement can really be helpful in taking the eyes off of self and putting our eyes back on God and loving and serving others.
So let’s try to build each other up today! And always remember to just be you! Also, be grateful for the gifts and talents you see in others and offer a word of encouragement often. Be grateful for your gifts and strive as best as you can to put your gifts in service out of love for God and the Church.