The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.(P) The word of the Lord.
O God, by your name save me, and by your might defend my cause. O God, hear my prayer; listen to the words of my mouth. (R)
For the haughty men have risen up against me, the ruthless seek my life; they set not God before their eyes. (R)
Behold, God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life. Freely will I offer you sacrifice; I will praise your name, O Lord, for its goodness. (R)
Beloved: where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, complaint, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus and his disciples began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the son of Man will rise." But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
You may have heard this story or versions of it. Once upon a time, there was an old man who lived in a village and was well known for his wisdom. Every day many people went to the old man to ask for advice for solving their problems. It seemed that he could answer any question that was posed to him.
One day a boy decided to test the old man's wisdom. He came up with the idea of capturing a butterfly and hiding it in his hands, and asking the old man to guess whether the butterfly is alive or dead. With this plan he caught a butterfly, held it in his hands, went to the old man and asked him, "What have I got in my hands?" The old man answered, "It is a butterfly". "Is it alive or is it dead", asked the boy. After a short pause, the old man replied, "The answer to that question lies in your hands. If I say the butterfly is alive, you could crush it in your hands, so that when you open your hands it would be dead; if I say the butterfly is dead, you can open your hands and let it fly free. So no matter what I say, you would prove that I am wrong and a fool. Whether the butterfly is dead or alive, it depends on you. It is in your hands".
The same goes for our life, our present and our future. If we have any kind of problem or any lack of inner peace and happiness, we often tend to blame others or society for it. We do not realize that peace is in our own hands like the butterfly. It's up to us to desire for more peace, and love, enjoy and protect the peace already within us.
This is the fourth week we read and reflect upon the Letter of James which was written to help all Christians to understand and attain spiritual maturity. It is important we all grow up spiritually and develop our character accordingly. The more we read the scriptures and know Christ, the more we must become like Christ. Saint Paul says, "We are not meant to remain as children but to grow up in every way into Christ", Ephesians (4:14-15).
Throughout the letter James encourages all believers to live as Christians should. Let me quickly summarize what we have read so far. In the first week he exhorted us to gratefully recognize everything, especially the word of truth which gives us life, as a gift from above, to humbly receive it, and faithfully apply it in our everyday life so that we can save our souls. He further called on us not to be merely hearers of the Word and observers of religious traditions and ritual practices, but also to pursue holiness and purity through charity and kind deeds to the poor and afflicted.
In the second week, he admonished us not to show favoritism to anyone but to treat all people equally. Particularly he encouraged us to avoid favoritism at our worship places and in community gatherings. Instead he urged us to demonstrate our true faith through compassion and love for others.
Last week, he reminded us about the close link between faith and works, and insisted that faith alone is not enough, it should be manifested by actions; otherwise our faith is dead or useless. That's to say that both faith and works are essential for peace and salvation.
In today's text he reminds us of the connection between wisdom and conduct. What is wisdom? Wisdom is not intelligence nor knowledge nor information. Wisdom means the application of knowledge. Wisdom then is not what I know, wisdom is how I live. James sees wisdom as the ability to use our biblical knowledge to understand life and the world around us, and therefore reshape our life, transform our attitudes and behavior into righteousness. And he believes that true wisdom is not something one attains but that it comes only from God, and anyone who opens himself to God's wisdom, changes his life forever.
Because he says wisdom from above is "pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace". So the man who seeks wisdom from above becomes peaceful, gentle, kind, merciful and is obedient to the teachings of God and considerate to the needs of others as well. Such a man desires peace, loves peace, lives a life of peace and righteousness and attempts to keep peace with others.
In contrast, James points out, "Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that war within your members arise?" James considers jealousy, selfishness, ambition, unbridled passions, covetousness, and envy as the characteristics of a man with earthly wisdom or wisdom from below. Such a person, he says will bring only confusion, disorder, disharmony, and a whole lot of evil into our society.
In other words, the roots of all external evils in our world are found ultimately in the hearts of human beings. Finally James shows how coveting corrupts our lives and robs us of happiness and peace. He states, "You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." By this, James tells us that the root cause of bitter conflicts between individuals and wars between nations is covetousness or an unquenchable desire for what belongs to others, and the desires of human beings are contrary to the will of God.
This piece of instruction was written over two thousand years ago. But it is also applicable to our life today. Are you at peace with yourself, others and God? If you are, thank God for it and protect it because it is so easy to lose it. If you are not then what are the fundamental reasons? Are there division, disorder and disharmony in your home and among friends and communities?
Instead of blaming our past, current circumstances, or others for a lack of peace in our life, let us pursue wisdom from above which is as James says, "pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, good fruits and is impartial and sincere". Let us seek wisdom from the scriptures which God has handed down to us throughout the ages, and wisely live out what God dictates in our daily life. Let us be on our guard against selfish ambition, envy and covetousness or foolish and harmful desires which can plunge us into ruin and destruction and a lack of peace in our life. It is impossible to possess inner peace with these evil desires in our minds and hearts. Only when we have inner peace, can we be at peace with those around us and with God.
Therefore, if you have not yet obtained or do not possess it, ask God for help but ask with a pure heart and for the right reasons. God will always bless us with abundant peace if we are obedient to Him.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!