Homily: The problem of competition and comparison
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
Competition and comparison – our culture thrives on it. Competition can be a good thing – it spurs us on. However, it can also tear us apart. It can be a real trap (especially for young people) when they focus on how they do not measure up to others. We need to intervene if we find ourselves comparing ourselves unfavourably with others. It is better to love ourselves for who we are – just as God loves us as we are - as we say “warts and all”.
This ties in with today’s Gospel. There we find the disciples competing to be the best. Jesus then tells them, in effect, to stop comparing themselves with others. He wants them to look inside themselves and get to know their special talents. When they recognise their gifts, they will then be able to use them for others – especially for the least in our society.
For Jesus our value does not come from our ‘appearance’ or ‘popularity’ or how well we compete with others. It comes from God – each one of us can say we are unique creations of God’s love. Realising that, we can go out into the world and show those who are not valued how valuable they are. We need to know and value our own talents – e.g. you may have the ability to make children laugh. Develop that talent. Are you good at listening and offering some comfort to those stressed in some way? Perhaps you have the gift of building ‘bridges’ when friends find some relationships are strained.
I know that many of you give your time to help someone who is in need or on the margins, as we say. This is the message of the Gospel. It is so different from the theme of so many Reality Shows on T.V. So often, we find that genuine discipleship turns our modern value system on its head. We do not need to go outside the four walls of family homes to see the Gospel being lived. A parent’s love for a child is a true reflection of Christian love and service.
When there is a growing baby, the parent does not count the cost of late nights. For the older children, there is extra food on the table. The kids generally know when they come in from sport they can raid the ‘frig’. When you think about it, there are so many examples in the home where parents move beyond themselves to care for the children and adolescents. That is a great example of how we are to serve Jesus without counting the cost, to give without expecting anything in return.
Our 2nd reading was from James. In his letter, he insists that true Wisdom comes from God. It is not just something of the mind; it is about Jesus’ way of life. That was very challenging for the disciples because they were all too humanly involved in petty squabbling. Jesus was preparing them for His impending passion. They were disciples of a master who was soon to suffer bitter humiliation and death. We can easily apply this to our current situation. We need to pray for true Wisdom to remain steadfast in our discipleship of Jesus in our secular society.
Our connection with Christ and with one another through the Eucharist brings wholeness to our own lives. More than that, it strengthens us to give Gospel witness by reaching out to others in love and peace. When the Holy Spirit emanates from us, true evangelisation takes place. God’s grace is in us and works through us.
James tells us “live wisely, live humbly”. Our lives are always more compelling than our words. Then we may be surprised when somebody observing this will ask us “What’s the reason for the HOPE that is in you”?
Today, our local, our national and our international society desperately needs “witnesses of HOPE”. May this Eucharist help us to be just that.
*This is a copy of Mons' homily on the 24th Sunday in ordinary time, 2018