Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you are trying your best, trying to do something good for yourself or others, it turns out there are other people who get a little envious of your efforts? Or, just the opposite. Sometimes you find yourself secretly hoping things don’t work out for that person who is getting all the attention? That’s call jealousy.
I was reminded of that as I was watching the beginning of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. I’m not going to give the whole plot away, but basically – as the teleprompter thing rolls over the screen — Luke has gone away and is hiding, and the Evil Empire is hunting him. There’s a new bad guy – Kylo Ren – and he has an anger management problem. Anyway… They want to kill Luke, in order to control the force for evil purposes.
And then it dawned on me… This movie is all about jealousy. The Dark Side is jealous that Luke has the power.
It’s the same thing with the Magi this morning from the Gospel. The Roman Empire took control of Jerusalem in 66BC, and placed Herod in charge of the city with only one condition: no uprisings or civil unrest. When King Herod hears about the birth of the Messiah, he was greatly troubled, along with all of Jerusalem. Why? Because there was a new King coming, and that might have created problems. So, Herod manipulates the Magi to tell him about the star’s whereabouts, sends them to Bethlehem, and says “Go and search diligently for the child.” Sort of like the First Order searching for Luke Skywalker.
Now before I go on, one clarification: Many people ask me if the force in the Stars Wars saga is anything like the Catholic God. And the answer is no. Specifically, the Force is not like the Holy Spirit because it can be can be used for both good and evil. The Holy Spirit could a) never be ‘used’, and b) the Holy Spirit is only capable of the good. There is no ‘dark side’ to our God!
So Herod says, “When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” Herod wants to stop the good from happening. He’s insecure. He’s jealous.
You know, just like Herod, we all feel threatened at times. Perhaps there is a new employee who everybody loves. Or a mom or dad down the street who just always seem to be doing a better job parenting. Or that kid in your class who always gets an A+, who always seems to be able to figure things out. Or, your neighbors who are traveling the world yet again during the holidays…
We want what they have. We want to be admired for something we’ve done. We want to be the best. Nothing wrong with that… it’s the negative spin that’s the problem.
It’s pulling others down, not lifting them up, that’s the problem.
Can you see how crazy that way of thinking is here in Church? In God’s kingdom, there is no need to be jealous. God does not judge us by the standards of this world. We are all loved the same by God: unconditionally! In God’s kingdom, we could imagine lifting people up when they do a better job. Celebrating those who make more money or get better grades. We can wish only the absolute best for other people, because that’s what God wishes for us.
Imagine if all could keep that in mind as we go through life, seeing other people as if they were in the Kingdom of God. Right now. In 2016.
Maybe that’s could be our New Year’s Resolution – I’m not going to be like Herod and feel threatened by other people. I’m going to recognize jealousy, and I’m going to let it go.
On this feast of the Epiphany, we lift up the Magi who were not jealous, we lift up the shepherds who were not jealous, we lift up everyone in the Christmas story who knew what was going on, and reacted not in envy of what they knew they didn’t have, but in love for what they did have. For what we have.
A tiny infant who will become the Lord of the Universe. A force truly has awakened on this day, one that casts out all fear, all doubt and all jealousy. May we keep that close to our hearts all the days ahead. Amen.