“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
This is a quote that I have come back to many times throughout my ministry and my adult life. I have struggled with comparison my whole life. When I was a little girl, I compared myself to all the other ballerinas in my class. They were always taller than me, skinnier than me, better at balancing than me. When I was in college, I compared my grades to those of the other Theology majors.
Even in quarantine, I catch myself comparing my feelings and my day to everyone else’s. We are bombarded on social media with sweaty selfies of women who ran 10 miles this morning before waking up her 7 children, homeschooling them, baking cookies for the local fire dept., and praying a family rosary. Sometimes, I consider it a successful day if I remember to brush my 15 month old’s teeth!
So I find myself internally chuckling at Peter in today’s Gospel. Looking at the Apostle John, Peter probably thought, “Why me? Why was I chosen to be the ‘Rock’?” He may have found himself comparing his impulsivity to John’s steadfastness; his tendency to put his own foot in his mouth with John’s silent wisdom; his denial of Christ with John’s fierce loyalty. Even to us, it may seem that John, the disciple that “Jesus loved”, would have been the first, most logical choice for that role.
However, Peter was chosen.
Christ looked beyond his rough spots and saw his strengths. Peter’s passionate determination and humility were gifts needed for his calling. If he were more like John, or Paul, or Matthew, we would have had another holy man, certainly. And probably another saint. But we would not have had Peter, the first pope and the Rock on which our Church was built.
True humility consists in knowing who you are in relation to God, and resting in that knowledge. C.S. Lewis defines humility as “Not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” While pride turns us inward and magnifies our flaws until we have no room for anything else, true humility brings us out of ourselves and gives us the ability to focus on others. While comparison leads to frustration, rejection, and sadness; humility leads to peace, confidence, & contentment. Comparison truly is the thief of joy!
Christ sees both our strengths and our weaknesses. And He has created us each for a unique mission and purpose, just like Peter. If we were all meant to be the same shade of blue, we would never know the beauty of red, or yellow, or green, or purple.
So I wish I could go back and tell that little girl who measured herself every day that being short is part of what makes her, her. If she was two inches taller like everyone else in her ballet class, who would have been able to fit into the smallest tutu? If she was able to balance for as long as the other girls, she might not have been able to do as many pirouettes as she could.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you now to silence those lies from Satan who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Curated photo collages on social media do not share the whole story of someone else’s life, just like your struggles do not define the entirety of yours. Listen to John’s words at the end of today’s Gospel:
“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”
If we were all to be described individually; beauty, flaws, and all, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
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