Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Around The Water Cooler

Jealousy and gossip have a way of poisoning the mind and making things seem different than they might actually be.   Years ago I was working for a company that had several employees who were just never happy.   Every time I was around them they would complain and gossip about the boss and office workers.  They always had a story about this or that thing that was being done, or this or that person that was being treated better.  It wasn't long before I too began to be unhappy with my job.  I'd go to work sad and have no real desire to do anything other than get a paycheck.   It wasn't that things had changed.. it was still the same job, doing the same thing, for the same pay.. but somehow I was beginning to hate it.  Eventually I left to work for another company.   The funny thing was my situation was almost identical, almost the same pay, same kind of people, same kind of 'office politics', but I was happy.  

Jeremiah suffered from this same sort of human interaction.   People didn't like the things he was doing either, so they plotted to kill him.   Instead of looking to their own hearts and changing their ways, they wanted God on their terms.  So they poisoned the minds and hearts of those around them until they too were angry with Jeremiah instead of at their own sin.  It's a horrible thing to have those who you love, those whom you want the best for, turn on you and hate you for your faith.  Our world encourages it though these days.   The shows on television show fathers to be bumbling fools who are always oblivious to what is actually going on, and mom for the most part is absent or some sort of psychopath.   The kids are often the heroes, or the only ones capable of doing anything.   It's a slow sort of poisoning that enters the mind and changes our thoughts.. much like the gossip of my coworkers years ago.

In the Gospel the disciples are mumbling with jealousy at the request of the two sons of thunder to be at Jesus right and left hand.  He had just announced that he was going to be killed in Jerusalem but instead of being sad, or trying to build up each other to courage, they begin to grumble about honor and their place in the kingdom.  Isn't that just like us humans?  To become indignant at the actions of others instead of looking inside at our own failings?  That's when Jesus gives us the key to ending jealousy, the key to breaking the cycle of poisoning.  The antidote if you will.   Humility.  "Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

As Catholics we should not participate in such things as work place gossip, but rather work diligently and joyfully.  That's hard to do sometimes isn't it?   It is even harder when we have one of those other workers who consistently berates the management or moans and complains about things.   St. Francis de Sales in his work "Introduction to the Devout Life" tells us that when we see this sort of thing happening we should do something.   Either speak up about it, walk away, or in some way show the person you don't want to be part of such negativity.   That doesn't mean when there are legitimate issues that we should not speak up for peoples rights, or even go to management with ethical issues and complaints.  What it does mean is that what comes into us, comes out of us.   What we watch, what we hear, what we see... all form our memory, which is what our other faculties act on.   We should be ever mindful of that.. be it television, radio, or workplace conversation.  That way we can emulate Jesus Christ in all things in a way that is proper to our own vocations.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for daily mass on Wednesday of the second week of Lent, March 15, 2017.