Spiritual Jealousy: what is it? Is this something we need to be careful about?
Have you ever heard of Spiritual Jealousy? I’ve always referred to the situations that I’m going to discuss ,in this blog , as the above. However, I recently discovered that spiritual jealousy is a reality that we face within our faith journeys. Some of you may understand to what it is that I’m alluding. Nevertheless, I feel that it is necessary to discuss this matter because ,whether we realise it or not, all of us have likely been subject to this emotion. But, to what degree should we steer away from spiritual jealousy? Is it even necessary that we guard ourselves against spiritual jealousy?
When we come to know Jesus, we have a certain gravitation towards the works of our Lord. We want to live and die for Him. We want everything we do to be centred around Him. This a beautiful stage, that we go through , during our early periods of knowing our Lord and His church. This stage of our lives should only flourish and should never grow cold. Weeks, months and perhaps year’s pass by and then the situation starts to change and at this time the problem of ‘spiritual jealousy’ can slowly begin creeping into the scene.
Most people are aware of jealousy. I need not go into any definitions here I presume. However, spiritual jealousy is something we commonly miss within our lives and this may lead to distances in our relationship with Christ. I wanted to share with you my thoughts on this topic because I too have experienced this issue within my spiritual journey. Fortunately, God gave me two amazing parents who took effort to properly guide me in my walk with Christ. So, I want to pass on what I’ve learnt ,over the years, to you.
I am a cradle catholic (baptised Syro Malabar catholic). Both the paternal and maternal sides of my family are devout in the catholic faith. I have always had a love for Jesus and His church. However, it was in 2014 that this love became my own. I attended a retreat which changed my life for the better. A retreat experience is unique to everyone as Jesus works in different ways for different people. However, my experience didn’t have a lot of fanfare surrounding it. I didn’t receive any visions, bodily or spiritual miracles and nor did I hear Jesus say anything to me. It was bland in this aspect. Nevertheless, I experienced Him! I knew He was more real to me than anybody else! I knew I was His daughter and I wanted my life to be truly Catholic. I no longer desired to be nominally catholic but I wanted my life to speak of my faith in Jesus Christ. I didn’t have any profound experiences to hold onto, but now I had found the truth and this truth was Jesus.
The challenge began when I returned from this retreat. I had nothing profound to share with anyone, other than that I knew Jesus. There is nothing exciting here for people to hear. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, nobody judged me because of it but within my soul the fact that I had nothing big to say was bothersome. Then some questions, started to arise such as ‘How come you don’t have anything special? What if Jesus loves you less? etc… etc. The best decision that I made during this uneasy period , was to share this unrest with my parents. My parents always try to do the best for Jesus so I knew their input wouldn’t falter. My parent’s advice continues to help me to this day.
They told me , “ Jubia, Jesus loves you! He doesn’t love you less because you didn’t receive anything special at the retreat. That is simply not how it works. He has a unique and unrepeatable call for everyone in this world. It’s up to Jesus to decide what He gives you, but your challenge is to use what is given to you for God”.
I would love to say that ,after my parent’s advice, there was no longer an issue surrounding this problem. This just wasn’t the case. I would constantly find myself feeling really upset when listening to others share about their experiences after a retreat or prayer. Other people around me, would experience the scent of jasmine when praying the rosary, have visions of Jesus when they pray or profoundly experience the presence of the holy spirit in numerous ways. I on the other hand would have none of the above to claim.
A desire for Jesus.
At this stage in my life, I have realised that there is no one ,on this earth , that knows me better than Jesus. He knows what I need in my journey with Him and He knows what I am capable of. It is possible that Jesus doesn’t provide me with extraordinary gifts because He knows I wouldn’t be able to handle them. Or rather, the reason for this will, of Jesus, is of a desire for me to love Him without such gifts.
Let’s remember how Jesus himself said “ blessed are those who do not see but yet believe” (John 20:29) to St Thomas. This verse from scripture truly resonates with my situation. It is as if Jesus is telling me to accept the fact that I have nothing of the extraordinary and love Him through the ordinary things to fall into the path of sanctity.
At times like this, I think it is necessary to ponder how St. Thomas had difficulty believing in the resurrected Lord without evidence, but several early Christians left their paganism to follow Jesus Christ, whom they had never seen, even as far as the Roman circuses to face their deaths. These people had nothing to rely on despite their un-relinquishing faith. Despite this, there were many people, in the early church, to whom Jesus gave the gifts of vision, prophecy and tongues. These gifts they were given was their route to sanctity. Thus, everyone is called to stand firm in their faith without compromise. We can all do it if we have a burning desire for Jesus. This desire is what united all the early church regardless of their individual gifts. This must be the central part of our lives too.
Our relationship with Jesus.
Secondly, our focus should be on the relationship we have with Jesus. Everyone has their own personal journeys with Christ. If you don’t keep guard of this relationship then it’s very likely that sins such as envy, greed, pride and wrath could arise. These are a gateway for Satan to get a hold of one’s lives. It is natural for jealousy and envy to arise when we see somebody else move forward within their spiritual lives. Rather than succumb to these thoughts, it is important to re-focus your attention on Jesus and surrender your journey into His hands. The specific role in the church that Jesus has chosen for you may be totally different to that of your friend. One person may be called to religious life; another called to preach; another to heal and to others the call is to lead an ordinary life. Nevertheless, your life must be centered around Jesus and His church!
We make up the body of Christ.
The body of Christ (the church) is made up of many parts with Jesus as its’ head (1 Corinthians 12:12). The pope takes the role of His prime minister on earth, holding the keys of authority. The cardinals , bishops and priests make up the magisterium. The rest of the church is made up of the Lay people. Each part of Christs body is unique, just as any human body, with specific functions. Thus, you as an individual is a single unique part of the body of Christ. The gifts that you have, regardless of how small, is needed to make this body function properly. St Paul points out that ‘the body is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say “Because I am not a Hand. I don’t belong to the body” that would not keep it from being a part of the body’ (1 Corinthians 12:14-15). Do you see my point? It simply doesn’t matter whether you can prophecy, see visions, heal people or whether you have none of the above. Each one of you ,with the gifts you possess, belong equally to the body , though you may function differently. The truth is that the body will not function properly if one of you is missing.
Be who you are meant to be …
There is a very popular quote attributed to St. Catherine of Sienna. It goes like this “ Be who you were meant to be, and you will set the world ablaze”. This is undoubtedly true! Jesus created you with a purpose! He gave you your gifts and talents for a purpose! You are called to use them for his kingdom! Perhaps, you have nothing fascinating or attractive in the world’s eyes. You might just be an ordinary woman or man. Regardless of whatever you have, your lives must first be an example for Christ! Let your lives sing the joy of the Lord! Do everything with Jesus by your side! Let Jesus be your primary concern and your family and those around will say that “ He/ she is a SAINT”. Each one of us are called to sainthood and this doesn’t mean that we will be an exact copy of an existing saint. You re called to be saint YOU! This is possible if you truly desire to do Gods will with the greatest sincerity.
So, what can we do about the jealousy ? Here goes …
Every individual that we meet in our faith journey, is a brother or sister in Christ. It is our responsibility to recognise their gifts and aid its growth. Therefore, when jealousy creeps in on us, it is much more profitable to thank God for the gifts which He has bestowed upon this brother or sister of yours. Likewise, you could pray that God strengthens them to continue to use their gifts for His kingdom. Then , take upon yourself the humility to accept whatever God has in store for you.
Jealousy against somebody else’s calling in life will not lead us anywhere and it is crucial that we steer away from it as much as possible. We must take on true Christian charity and friendship. As Catholics we are called to build up the kingdom of God and hold up the pillars of the one, true, catholic and apostolic church established by Jesus Christ. The gifts and talents we possess must be shared amongst one another to obtain the above goal. Do not despair at what you lack but be proud of the gifts you have. If you can sing, then sing for Christ. If you can write, then write for Christ. If you can preach then preach for Christ. It doesn’t matter how miniscule your talent may seem, when you utilise this for the kingdom of God, the value of it in eyes of God will be bigger than you can ever imagine.
I hope what I’ve shared here has been helpful to you. My God bless you all!
~ Jubia xx