by Father Mark Goldasich
It truly does not take much to amuse me. That’s the conclusion I reached (yet again) after my priests’ prayer group meeting a few weeks ago.
I get together once a month with four other priests at Lake Perry. Part of our day is spent looking at the coming Sunday’s Scripture readings. I found myself snickering as I listened to the first reading from the Book of Numbers (11: 25-29). You’ll remember it once I mention two names: Eldad and Medad. These were the two elders who, for some reason, didn’t make it to the meeting tent with Moses, yet still got a portion of his spirit and were prophesying in the camp.
When our group started its reflection on the Scriptures, I confessed that I couldn’t hear the names Eldad and Medad without grinning. One person in our group mentioned that, sadly, the oldest, wisest and most respected member of that family couldn’t go to the tent with Moses, either; his name was “Granddad.” Another mentioned that one family member was away fishing at the time (“Crawdad”). Then there was the guy who was really hard to describe — “Doodad.”
After Sunday Masses that weekend, parishioners reminded me of the family member who always stood head and shoulders above the others (“Stepdad”) and of the one who worked as a sacker at the market — “Baghdad.” Even though I’m sure there are more members of the “dad” family out there, I’d better stop and get to the point of this column.
In that reading from Numbers, Joshua, who was Moses’ right-hand man, is disturbed at Eldad and Medad for prophesying and wants Moses to stop them. Moses replies, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”
Jealousy. It’s something that lurks to some extent in all our hearts. It’s a feeling that’s destructive and divisive. It infects the one who harbors it, often with dire results, as this ancient Greek legend illustrates:
A certain athlete ran well but placed second in a race. The winner was not only showered with praise, but eventually a statue was erected in his honor in the town square. Jealousy ate away at the man who had placed second. He so resented the winner that he could think of little else. One day, he decided to destroy the winner’s statue.
Night after night, he went to the statue and chiseled away at the base to weaken the foundation. One night, though, he chiseled with such violent anger that he went too far. The heavy marble statue teetered on its base and crashed down on the disgruntled athlete. He died beneath the weight of the marble replica of the man he had grown to hate. His jealousy had destroyed him. (Adapted from “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)
Isn’t that how jealousy works? It begins to chip away at your life. It so distorts your vision that you fail to see the particular gifts, talents and blessings that are there in your life and instead focus solely on what’s “not there”: the gifts, talents and blessings that another person has. Over time, if unchecked, this jealousy makes a person bitter and ungrateful. In effect, like the Greek legend warns, it kills a person — perhaps not physically, but certainly spiritually.
At times, like Joshua, we become jealous and catch ourselves belittling the efforts of others who are doing good — because they’re not Catholic, or not American, or not of our race or economic class, or not . . . well, the list could go on and on.
Moses had the right idea. If good is being done, if God’s Spirit is at work in people’s words and deeds, then be grateful and encourage it. After all, there’s plenty of God’s work to go around: No one person or group can hope to do it all.
This week, catch folks doing good. Rather than judging or being jealous of their good work, let them know you noticed, thank them and encourage them to continue changing the world for the better.
I’ll close with an apology to Eldad and Medad. Would that we all had their spirit of prophecy!