Speak Lord: ever present, still longed for

st-james

Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James 5:7-10

The Second reading on Sunday next, the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminds us that we wait still for the Lord’s Second Coming.

We live with hope because of his first coming, but his second coming is still ahead of us.

In this meantime we anticipate that second coming again and again in our sacramental encounters with the Lord in word and in Sacrament.

Already, here and now, we meet with him and experience his saving love. These tokens of what is still come sustain and encourage us.

St James. St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. (c) 2016, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Draw us to love

Conspicuous Wealth

The second reading on Sunday, the 26th Sunday of the Year sounds like it could have come from one of Pope Francis’ critiques of unbridled capitalism – which he reminds us is called ‘dung of the devil’ in our tradition -, or the denunciation by Bartolomé de las Casas of the exploitation of South America’s people by European rulers, adventurers, and occupiers.

The Gospel demands justice and compassion.

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

James 5:1-6

And yet so often the Church has herself been complicit in the exploitation and has benefited from it in material ways. We live in a place where moral choices matter and we sometimes get them wrong.

  • Today notice the choices you make and consider the impact they may have on others.
  • Bring your conclusions in prayer to God. Does God agree with your assessment?

Statue and golden surround from church in Madrid. Often such gold was plundered from the New Spain – the colonies in the Americas. (c) 2003, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: lead us to harmony and peace

The Second reading on Sunday is the next passage in our semi-continuous reading of the Letter of St James.

He moves on a little from consideration of the relationship between faith and works, or may it’s that he has started to focus on aspects of our lives that we often do not consider to be work. He suggests there is nothing of faith there either!

Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

James 3:16-4:3

For the Christian life is work and we are called to live it all, ‘work it’ all in a way that evidences God and the love of God.

Instead, too often, in our inner life and in our life more evidently in relationship with others we find godlessness at work. Sometimes this is hidden, sometimes it takes a very visible form in conflict, of one sort or another. Either way the consequences are devastation, on a small scale or a large.

  • Where in your life are you furthest from God?
  • Why?
  • What help do you need to be healed and help others heal?

Photograph (c) REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo. Accessed here

Taste and See: Love

Caritaslogo

The Second reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time,was taken from the Letter of St James. It vividly presents the challenge to join ourselves to the works of love.

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

James 2:14-18

If we live in Western society where the argument splutters on whether God exists or not, Christians may easily consider faith is about whether we believe that God exists. Sure, that is important! But it is not sufficient – as St James points out, the devil believes that too!  But we are called to believe in God, and a shorthand for that belief in is ‘love’.

We are called to love God, neighbour and self. To fail to do either compromises the others. To be a person of faith is to be a person of love. A person who does not love here or does not love there is not a person of love.

They may have been a person of love, in which case they need remedial care. They may be in the process of becoming a person of love, in which case this or that failure may prove a stepping stone to growth, if it is occasion for re-assessing progress and looking, asking, for help.

But love is what love does.

  • Where are you love-less?
  • Bring your weaknesses and your strengths to God in prayer, and pray for deeper faith, and deeper love.

Speak Lord: Of work and faith

Cezanne old woman at prayer

The Second reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes once more from the Letter of St James. Again James reflects on the necessary relationship between faith and action, faith and good works.

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

James 2:14-18

Sometimes we might feel we have neither faith to show or good works. But even that can itself be a work of faith, an act of humility, of contrition – of an honest acknowledgement of shortcomings and failings before God and our neighbour. Such a confession can often help others to a new frankness about their situation and needs, and so have them turn afresh to God and neighbour asking for mercy and help.

  • What are your principal good deeds? What helps you to them?
  • Where do you fall short? How might even that become a building block of the Kingdom?

Cezanne Old WomanII

The images are of a painting of an old woman by Cezanne. It is said that the woman was a former religious who lost her faith, and yet she prays the rosary. The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2013, Allen Morris