The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are two armies striving mightily to gain the upper hand. And the arena is both within and without. St. James poses the question: Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? He promptly answers his own question: Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? And on sifting the evidence, one concludes that St. James is onto something. For during a period of twenty-four hours, there are a whole parcel of opportunities, choices, and decisions to be made. In subtle or not-so-subtle ways, we turn our backs on the high road and settle for the less than stellar.
Good vs. Evil
When we encounter pure, unadulterated evil, like slavery, racial discrimination or cold-blooded murder, we’re rightly shocked to the core. And fifteen minutes later, we’ve promptly moved on to browsing the internet, or planning the next feast where we would outdo Babette by the proverbial mile. The story of Lazarus and the rich man dining sumptuously and dressed in rich, purple garments comes readily to mind and cuts me to the heart every time. With said Internet, one can find a million Lazaruses, so no free pass to those who don’t see a Lazarus lookalike at the end of our driveway.
Lift High The Cross
When Jesus predicted His passion, the disciples didn’t get it, dropped the question like a hot potato and moved on to the burning question: who was the greatest? Was it Peter, quick on the uptake; James, and John, with their thunderbolts; Simon the zealot or the rich tax collector? Not so fast, says Jesus, and reminds us of the way of the selfless, not the selfish; the way of the cross, not the Rolls Royce.
Knowing we are naturally ordered towards disorder should give us a clue that we can’t fully trust ourselves. For a person can justify practically any evil, if left to one’s own machination and governed by one’s own passions. `My will be done` is not going to turn out right in the long run.
Jesus, the Paradox
For 3 years, Jesus taught the disciples. But they did not get it at all. Jesus modeled servant leadership day in and day out. Nights spent in prayers, days spent in healing, teaching, and serving. Parables, paradoxes, and miracles galore. Some wanted to make Him king. But others wanted to kill Him. Here we see the Two Standards in full display. Jesus, however, did not let Himself be blown off course, he stuck to His mission and in the end, suffered the ignominy of the cross in order to turn our world right side up again.
When we rely on self, something will always be lacking. For when we act through and for our passions, and we do not pray rightly – we’re praying to spend it on our passion, to dip into St. James again.
It was only after Pentecost that the disciples finally got it and there was no stopping them – twelve men literally changed the World. We too need our own Pentecost. We need to beg the Holy Spirit to empty us of our self-love and fill us with His love so that it overflows into the world so desperately in need of it.
Come, Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of your love and through us, renew the face of the Earth.