DIRECT AND INDIRECT EGOTISM: A HOMILY ON THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
A little girl was telling me what she wanted to do in life. She wanted to work very hard and make a lot of money, then everybody will like her. I quickly made her realise that all her ambitions are possible, but the last part is not possible.
THEY WILL FIGHT AGAINST YOU
In the days of Josiah the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.But you, gird up your loins; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, least I dismay you before them. And I behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princess, its priests and the people of the land. THEY WILL FIGHT AGAINST YOU; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.”: Have you ever wondered why good people are not very much liked by all? Josiah who is mentioned in this reading was the last of the righteous kings in Israel. As righteous as he was, he was not liked by all. But God tells Jeremiah not to be afraid. God did not promise his a sweet ministry. A prophet that is liked by all has some important questions to answer. That is why, people believe that if you are a true man of God, your followers should fill up a stadium and the more crowd you have following you, the greater proof it is that you must be really called by God. Well, not even Jesus enjoyed such privilege.
At that time: Jesus began to say in the synagogue, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless, you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did in Capernaum, do here also in your own country.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sodom, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away.: Jesus was rejected even by His own people. He gives example of how other prophets, like Elijah and Elisha were also rejected. Even after the miracle against the prophets of Baal, Elijah’s life was still in danger from those who wanted to kill him. Here is Jesus facing the same music, from his own people who should be protecting Him. This time, He escaped death, but they will eventually kill Him on the Cross, the same way most of the Old Testament prophets were killed and persecuted. But why do good people suffer in this way? More importantly, why do they keep on with their good work in spite of being so persecuted, and hated? The answer to the first question and the answer to the second one are the same. Those who hate them do so, because they have no love, or their love is not true love. They suffer from direct or indirect egotism. This is the very sickness which Jesus and the prophets did not have. They have love in their heart, and since love has no end, their goodness continued in the face of persecution. That is why someone said that LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH.
Brethren: Earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have no love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have no love, I gain nothing.
Love is Patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends; as for prophesies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love: If you ask me what is the opposite of love today, I will say it is egotism (direct or indirect). Egotism is when I focus on whatever is in my best interest. Love, on the other hand is a decision to promote the best interest of the other person. Many people describe love as a feeling, but the problem with that is that the feeling is in them, which makes the love all about them and how they feel. This kind of love has very little to do with the one being loved. The problem with that is, when that person hurts that feeling by doing something really disgusting, the love will come to an end. This is called indirect egotism. It means I am promoting my welfare through you. Therefore, I will do good to you, as long as you continue to do good to me, at least, as long as you appreciate the good I am doing for you. Here, the focus is not on the needs of the next person, but on the needs of the lover. This is not the love that God has for us.
We can do so many good works of miracles, prophesy, healing, etc. But the question is, whose needs are being met? If I perform great miracles so that people can see what a powerful person I am, so that they can all follow me wherever I go and attend to my every needs, then the emphasis is not on their needs but on mine. As much as I may think I am doing good to them, it is myself that I am busy loving. The true test for this is persecution. If I am doing all those great works and the people hate me, will I have any reason to continue with such work? If I don’t, then there is no love in me, and that makes all the good work nothing but noise.
Also if the focus is on promoting what is in their best interest, then I will be more patient with them when they are not meeting my expectations. Sometimes, we get angry with people who reject our goodness, because we feel unable to control them. Love does not try to control the other person. Love gives freedom to the other person to go and come as they like. If I am focused on their best interest, then I cannot be jealous or boastful. These are qualities of those whose focus is on themselves, who are egotistic. If my focus is on the good of the other person, then I will not be arrogant or rude, or insist on my own way, then I will not be irritable or resentful, no matter what they do to me, then I will not rejoice over the wrong people do and I will bear their wrongdoings like the prophets did. If my love is focused on me, then it can come to an end. But a love that is focused on the other person cannot come to an end, even if the other person does not accept it. Direct or indirect egotism make us resent, hate and even kill those who reject us. But true love never comes to an end. Because Love is stronger than death.