Immersed in Christ: February 19, 2020
Wednesday, Week Six of Ordinary Time
Those who do justice shall live on the Lord’s holy mountain.
(Responsorial: Psalm 15)
James 1:19-27: The “yeast of the Pharisees” is essentially their refusal to listen and live by God’s word, combined with blind denial they are doing this. Pharisees have no self-doubt. Any insecurity they feel, they turn into anger and condemnation of others.
So James says: 1. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak” in condemnation. 2. “Humbly welcome the word,” especially the word that “takes root” in some interior movement of your heart. You always have more to learn. 3. “Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” That is what opens the Church to the charge of “hypocrisy” from those who don’t even want to hear God’s word.
James urges awareness. We need to keep ourselves conscious of “the face we were born with”; that is, of the new identity we received through the rebirth of Baptism. Being aware of ourselves as divine, living by God’s life because we have “become Christ,” is the first step.
James says we forget God’s word because we “do not put it into practice.” Conscious action cultivates awareness. Spiritual formation requires repeated exposure to God’s word combined with repeated decisions to put it into action.
James says, finally, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Look at what is important and live that first of all. “Looking after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself unspotted by the world make for pure worship.” Pharisees focus on little rules and insist on keeping them without “peering into freedom’s ideal law.” They ignore the damage their rigid legalism does to people in distress. And they “stone the prophets” who call them to break with the spotted “world” of their cultural conformity. Pharisees resist change. 1
In Mark 8:22-26, before Jesus cured the blind man he “took the blind man’s hand and led him outside the village.” It is very hard to see with the eyes of Christ if we are blinded by the “lights of the city”; that is, by all the assumptions, attitudes, allurements, intimidations and activities impressed on us by our culture. We tend to “go with the flow.”
Newton’s First Law of Motion is inertia: “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” We can also apply this to the inertia of thought: “People who think uniformly with everyone else tend to keep thinking that way unless some outside influence is applied to them.”
Jesus is the “outside influence.” He comes from beyond this whole created world, “takes us by the hand” to give us courage, and “leads us outside” the constricting sphere of our peer group to open our eyes. He takes us apart, to “the Lord’s holy mountain.”
But it is a gradual process. Jesus has to touch our eyes repeatedly before we “see everything clearly.” Enlightenment requires commitment to discipleship.
Initiative: Schedule excursions “outside the village.” Times to reflect. Retreats.