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By JENNIFER BURGIN
On the following sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and with violent abuse contradicted what Paul said. Both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, but since you reject it and condemn yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles."
My senior year of high school I was invited to interview for a Civic League scholarship. I earned a high GPA and volunteered in the community; however, could I impress the scholarship committee with my personality? I lacked self-confidence. The thought of answering interview questions made me sick to my stomach. My teachers gave me encouragement: "Just be yourself, Jennifer! You'll do great!"
The day of the interview two popular girls stood in the hallway as I exited the candidate room. I overheard them gossiping: "Uh! I hope they don't give a scholarship to Jennifer. She doesn't need the money! Her mother works for that big law firm downtown!" I later told my mom what I heard. She responded, shaking her head in disbelief, "Jennifer, they are only jealous of you! How funny they think I'm a highly paid lawyer. I'm only a legal secretary. They have no idea how much we can use scholarship funds for Texas A&M's tuition. Don't let them upset you! "
The Civic League not only awarded me a scholarship the year of graduation but all four years of college. To this day, I don't even remember the names or faces of those jealous girls; however, I will always remember the Civic League's generosity.
The Eyes of Jealousy Jealousy is a hideous vice which strikes us all. We are not immune to its negative hold on our psyches. Mr. Jealousy is a clever invader, using our pride, vanity, and sensuality to flood our eyes with internal seething. We question "why" someone is given something when we are left empty-handed. Why can't we be a GQ George or a Cosmopolitan Cindy ? Why, why, why?
Examples of jealousy can be found throughout the bible. We read about God being a jealous god. He wanted people to worship him instead of golden idols. Then we read the story of Cain and Abel - one brother spilling the blood of the other out of jealousy. Poor Joseph was sold into slavery because his brothers resented him for being the father's favorite son. Even Abraham's wife Sarah was jealous of her slave Hagar and sent her away to the desert. We can't forget Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Jesus where jealousy played a big role in Christ's death.
Today's first reading describes the Jews filled with jealousy seeing the whole towngathered together to hear the Word of the Lord. They felt uncomfortable by the preaching, and they definitely didn't want such teaching going on in their neighborhood. Certainly, the Jews wished the Apostles would disappear - Poof! Gone!
What fueled the Jewish jealousy and the violent abuse against Paul and Barnabas? Insecurity and fear. Perhaps they feared the extinction of Jewish traditions, or maybe they felt threatened by the growing Christian population. Even though the Apostles tried to convert them, the Jews rejected the Truth of Christ. Sadly, nothing would change their stubborn and defiant attitude, so the Apostles ministered to the Gentiles instead. The eyes of jealousy converted to eyes of delight, changing from green to a bright blue, as the Gentiles accepted the message of Jesus Christ with interest and excitement.
The Eyes of a Saint Today, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. During the 4th century, he fought staunchly againstArianism. I found a powerful quote which relates to modern-day, especially in light of the Christian persecution throughout the world:
"You are the ones who are happy; you who remain within the Church by your Faith, who hold firmly to the foundations of the Faith which has come down to you from Apostolic Tradition. And if an execrable jealousy has tried to shake it on a number of occasions, it has not succeeded. They are the ones who have broken away from it in the present crisis. No one, ever, will prevail against your Faith, beloved Brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day."
-From the "Letter of Saint Athanasius To His Flock"
Saint Anthanasius, Pray for Us!
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican associated with St. Albert the Great Priory. Please visit her blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality