emotional intelligence

The Beauty of Offering and Sacrifice


What does it mean to give ‘our all’ to God? And why would we want to do that? There are basically two approaches to answering these questions. Do we seek to have our present reasoning justified? Or, do we seek to have our hearts changed?

Consider the life of the early Christian saint, Anthony of Egypt. His parents had died, leaving him considerable wealth and the care of his sister. As he was walking to church one day, he was reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, … and come, follow me.” Arriving at church, he heard the preacher speak about the same Bible passage. Anthony took this Gospel to heart, believing it applied directly to him. As a result, he gave away his land to the poor tenants who lived on it, and sold the rest of his possessions. Then, after arranging for his sister’s care, Anthony went into the desert to live and pray in extreme simplicity.

Years later, Anthony’s holy example of a life centered on God attracted followers who gathered around him in desert caves. Among those who imitated him by selling their belongings, Anthony noticed something odd. All of them had given up what they owned, and literally had nothing. But many of them couldn’t stop thinking about what they had given away. They had parted with their material possessions; yet, they had not let go of them spiritually!

Anthony’s story provides a concrete vindication of Jesus’ teaching concerning the things we consider to be most important and valuable. For we soon find ourselves justifying our attachment to them. In other words, ‘where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.” Or, from an Appreciative Inquiry point of view, wherever our attention is focused, there we will direct our energy. So, let’s ask this: what is most important to us? And what is most important for us?

Here, I invite you to reflect on Heinrich Hoffman’s painting, shown above. This is one of the most-often reproduced images of Jesus’ face. It beautifully illustrates Mark’s comment about how, when the rich young man sought to justify himself, “Jesus loved him.” And yet, notice how that young man looks away from Jesus’ gaze.

When Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, we have left everything to follow you,” he was not speaking lightly, but literally. He and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John, had left their fathers, their family employment and their sources of income. Their example provides a huge challenge for every subsequent follower of the Nazarene Rabbi.


This post is based on my homily for Sunday, October 14, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here. The image above is Heinrich Hoffman’s painting, Christ and the Rich Young Ruler. Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here.

The Beauty of Emotional Intelligence


In Mark’s Gospel, we hear a story about Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman. It is easy to overlook a critical aspect of this story ~ the fact that Jesus chooses to travel to an area populated by Gentiles. There, he is confronted by a woman who for two reasons is ‘an outsider’: she is not an Israelite, and her daughter has a demon.

By overlooking Jesus’ choice, it then becomes easy to mishear a vital aspect of this Gospel reading. It’s Jesus’ willingness to be playful —even dangerously playful— as he enlarges our concept of God’s Kingdom. Some contemporary commentators don’t recognize this about Jesus’ journey into the region of Tyre. For they view it as a story about how a Gentile woman enlarges Jesus’ concept of the Kingdom. This follows from the way modern theologians stress the humanity of Jesus over his divinity. In other words, ‘how he was like us’ comes to overshadow ‘how he was different from us.’

This is especially true with our understanding of intellect. We associate ‘intelligence’ with skills like computing numbers and remembering information. Yet, the key to this Gospel story may lie in something different, in what is called “emotional intelligence.” Emotional intelligence is relational, and involves feelings, character and temperament. It depends on maturity, and relies on insight about what enhances or hinders well-functioning community. When we overlook these fuller dimensions of ourselves, we limit our concept of what it means to be human.

Think, for example, about humor. We assume humor depends on being witty, and making fun of people and situations. We forget that we also deal with serious things through humor. Humor approaches life indirectly, from the side, instead of straight-on. In medieval times, Christians actually debated whether Jesus ever laughed! We know he wept, but Scripture never records Jesus as laughing. Surely, we can see beyond this narrow assumption that Jesus never laughed or spoke with irony and humor.

Appreciating how Jesus uses playful humor helps us understand his interaction with the Canaanite woman, and how he is compassionate rather than rude in speaking with her. The story displays the beauty of his emotional intelligence instead of a limitation in his perception of his vocation.


This post is based on my homily for Sunday, September 9, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here. The Egyptian Arabic manuscript illustration above is credited to Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rabib (1684).