Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday word, 24 May 2008

7th Saturday of the Year (24 May 2008) Jms 5.13-20; Ps 141; Mk 10. 13-16
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
On the Verge

Today we complete our continuous reading of the Letter of James at daily masses. James encouraged Christians to practice a godly life in contrast to a worldly life. "Worldly" meant this for James: that grasping way of being, which manipulates people by envy, which leads to murder. In contrast, God gives gifts from above,/1/ in James’ phrase. James encouraged his hearers to become a community aware of its gifts and to share their gifts and restore life to the sick.

Sickness may first suggest physical or emotional illness to us. James never discounted either. The church continues to use these very words of his in each celebration of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. One may be hale and hearty in body and mind and still be spiritually sick. For James one suffers spiritual sickness by speaking with a cutting tongue, when swayed by greed, succumbing to envy and by cultivating a hard spirit. The truth is we are always on the verge of lapsing into spiritual sickness of one sort or another. This is far from being a failing or our fault. Our Creator and Redeemer as well as the “enemy of our human nature”/2/ both desire our loyalties.

Divine grace, when we allow it to enter and take possession of us, makes our hearts more supple and enables us to feel and show compassion. By contrast, following the lures of the enemy of our human nature hardens our hearts and makes us resistant and intolerant. We begin to feel most everyone and everything is unworthy, that nothing measures up to me. We grow to feel that way chronically, and that infects our relationship with God.

That was why Jesus quickly rebuked his disciples. Although spiritual sickness often smolders more than it blazes, it is nevertheless a fire that we need help to extinguish. As sophisticated people we need help, too, because our sophistication, not to mention our culture, quickly downplays spiritual smoldering. The best way we can extinguish it and prepare better to resist future spiritual smolderings, which seek to infect us, is to be childlike as Jesus counsels. To be open, to be readily awed by all things and to be gracious for the least person and thing heeds Jesus’ counsel and restores us to the spiritual health which truly satisfies us.

/1/ James 1.17; 3.15; 17.
/2/ This was a favored way St. Ignatius of Loyola designated Satan. His title reminds us that Satan operates through our human tendencies as does God.
Wiki-image from above the clouds by Vyacheslav Stepanyuchenko is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

No comments: