Opening the Word: Jealousy and ambition: The root of sin


“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (Jas 3:16).

St. James’ words are occasions for self-reflection for the Church this very day.

We know that jealousy and selfish ambition are found in Christ’s Church.

Among bishops, who may think more about their next assignment or serving on the right committee than preaching the Gospel of Christ.

Among the clergy, who want to be named vicar of this or that aspect of the diocese’s administration.

Among the baptized faithful, who set up artificially contrived hierarchies of importance in our parishes. These Eucharistic ministers, these lectors, these members of the parish council are the ones that matter.

In every one of these cases, disorder results from such selfish ambition. We mar Christ’s body, ceasing to serve as witnesses to the ends of the world of a love beyond all telling.

We are not the first of Christ’s disciples to find ourselves suffering from this malaise.

Jesus has just announced to the disciples the hardest of truths. He is the Messiah, yes. The Son of God, yes.

But that Messiah, that Son of God, must be crucified, die and be raised from the dead.

He will reveal his power not through military might, through ambition, but through self-emptying love.

As often happens in Mark, the disciples do not understand. On the way to Capernaum, they’re arguing.

About what?

Who is the most important? Who should be called the greatest? Who is the most powerful?

Jesus responds not with resignation but as the master teacher. He gives them the medicine that they need. If you are to be the greatest, you are to seize no power. Nothing! You are to become the least.

Like a master educator, he performs this teaching. He picks up a child and tells them that whoever receives this child, receives Jesus, and therefore, the Father.

Our temptation is to turn this into a saccharine lesson. Jesus receives the children, so lovely. So precious.

Our Lord is telling us something more complicated. His authority or power is like that of a child.

The child possesses no power. No authority. He is without ambition. She is without guile.

Jesus is this child. He is the Son of the Father. To receive this child is to receive Jesus because the source of Jesus’ power is his sonship. He is the Son of the Father, sent not to enact his own will but the will of God.

A harsher medicine than we might immediately recognize.

The task ahead of us is to become like Jesus, to become children of the Father.

And that means enough with the ambition, enough with the seizing of power. Whether you’re a bishop, a priest, or a member of the baptized faithful, ecclesial ambition and jealousy are the roads that lead to hell.

The hell of a self-love, which rips apart the community of the Church.

With Jesus, we are invited to give up the endless search for power and prestige. To become like ourselves little children of the Father, who seek not to enact our own wills but the will of the Father.

If the Church obeys Our Lord, the fruits will be obvious. Peace. Friendship. A communion grounded in an unimaginable love. A love made manifest upon the cross.

If we do not, there shall be every disorder. Every foul practice. There shall be darkness.

The choice is before us this day. Follow Jesus to peace. Or construct a monstrous, anti-Eucharistic communion of jealous ambition.

Listen to James. Listen to Jesus.

September 19 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wis 2:12, 17-20
Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8
Jas 3:16–4:3
Mk 9:30-37

 This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


A picture is worth a thousand words

Monday, October 18, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion A picture is worth a thousand words. Possibly no representation in religious art more affirms that old saying, save the... Read More

Opening the Word: The final misunderstanding

Friday, October 15, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley You can’t help but feel a bit of pathos for James and John. By now, they have heard Jesus tell them that he has come... Read More

Can you skip purgatory and go straight to heaven?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021
By: Msgr. Charles Pope Question: Much of Catholic teaching and literature focuses on nearly every one of us going to purgatory directly after... Read More

Pope St. John Paul II and wisdom worth exploring

Monday, October 11, 2021
By: Russell Shaw It’s sometimes said that Pope St. John Paul II was the most intellectually gifted occupant of the See of Peter ever, but... Read More

Opening the Word: Give it up

Friday, October 8, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle... Read More

House of Hope offers people a chance to get back on their feet

Wednesday, October 6, 2021
By: Nicole Snook To “harbor the harborless” is one way to refer to the merciful work of sheltering the homeless. It is fitting, then,... Read More

In Canada, as in America and elsewhere, Catholic political leaders ignore the teachings of the Church

Sunday, October 3, 2021
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Americans disgusted with their own politicians who identify themselves as Catholic but support legal abortion should look... Read More

Opening the Word: A Difficult Obedience

Friday, October 1, 2021
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Today’s Gospel consists of a surprising contrast. Jesus first provides teaching about divorce, then he tells the same... Read More

How can we better help women?

Wednesday, September 29, 2021
By: Kathryn Jean Lopez Do you know about 40 Days for Life? It’s the prayer campaign that happens every fall and spring. There’s... Read More

While an ‘Edit Undo’ button for life seems great, I would rather learn from my mistakes

Monday, September 27, 2021
By: Gretchen R. Crowe I recently had a conversation with my sister about the benefits of the “Edit Undo” capabilities in the Microsoft... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!