If family/community conflict comes: check your EGO … empower those around you to restore peace and happiness
You might object, but the First Reading reveals a trait present in many of us: the desire to pull others down when we feel inadequate in their presence, or they are calling for a change we do not want. We only have to remember what happened to Jesus when he went to his hometown and after, first, praising him they quickly tried to throw him off the cliff!
The Second Reading, likewise, reveals the consequences of jealousy: division and suffering. Thankfully, the Gospel helps us understand what is behind these. It’s the EGO: the desire to feel significant and needed. The younger we are, the more important the EGO is.
For all of us, EGO development is a very important part of becoming an authentic human being. However, for some, the desire for attention becomes a lust for power and domination; In a addition, the EGO can act like a drug and develop into an unhealthy FALSE EGO.
Our EGO is a complicated “animal!” A poorly developed and insufficient EGO, or an over-developed, excessive (false) EGO: we end up behaving like the characters in our Readings.
The guidance given by Jesus reminds us that we need Spiritual guides: Jesus doesn’t condemn the Disciples (or us), but takes time to guide and explain to them what authentic personhood is: the humility to welcome and empower others.
There’s a brilliant book about male development and masculinity called MAN ENOUGH, by Dr Frank Pittman PhD. If you get the chance, I highly recommend it. Even ladies will gain a deeper understanding of the male species and themselves. It’s particularly good in helping us understand the essential relationship between fathers and sons, to create a healthy EGO. (https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/335099/man-enough-by-frank-pittman/). Also, Fr Richard Rohr OFM helps us understand these issues in his book, ADAM’S RETURN.
If I knew of a good book that focuses on the female development I would also share that. All suggestions are welcome. However, there are common elements in the male and the female characters. One of the key elements in developing into a healthy person is the need to be Blessed by our father and mother; if not by both, then a Blessing by at least one parent will give us the necessary strength and encouragement to persevere in developing our authentic personhood: only one blessing means it will be more difficult (we will make more errors).
Unfortunately, men, in general, are responsible for more conflict than women, and our world, at this time, needs much peace. How can we help fathers Bless their sons? For that reason, the ideal family structure (mother + father + children) is so important. The focus by the Church –and Pope Francis – on protecting the family is vital for the health of our whole society.
Overly promiscuous and competitive men are often driven by the unconscious desire for a blessing from their father: when the father does not speak, the young man tries to do more, and do better, assuming that the father does NOT believe he is strong enough, or MAN enough.
You might be wondering why I’m sharing psychological information in a spiritual homily? Partly, because the body and the soul are united: what affects one, affects the other. The second reason is because Jesus warned us to go out into the world as gentle as lambs, but as cunning as wolves. In other words, we must use our brains to get out of situations, rather than expecting God to save us through magic. Part of a healthy EGO development takes place when we apply the gifts of Wisdom + Knowledge that God has given to us through human education.
The happiness of our families and communities is the source of our own personal happiness. Let’s reflect on our behaviour, and seek to understand how/why we express our EGO, by seeking mentors or spiritual guides, so that we may bring peace and joy to our families and communities. At the very least, the New Testament provides a tool to evaluate our actions.
Finally, a healthy EGO in the first half of life gives us energy to acquire and build up our security and self-esteem through community development.
However, a healthy EGO can become ‘sick’ as we grow older, unless we slowly give away our human ‘authority’ and goods in a way that empowers younger people.
I believe this is the essential message in today’s Gospel, when Jesus presents a child to the “powerful” disciples. Children in those days were often less valuable to a family than their cattle and sheep. However, by empowering younger people, the well-being of society is assured for tomorrow.
The question is: are we older people ready to gradually let go of control? Are we afraid?
It’s good to remember that fear fuels the FALSE EGO, and leads to conflict and division.
May God give us courage to empower those younger than us and build a happy society.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI