Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart? -- Saint Gerard Majella: 1726 – 1755: His intercession is sought for children, unborn children, women in childbirth, mothers, expectant mothers, motherhood, falsely accused people, and good confessions.)
Scripture Text: (JAS 4:1-10)
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.
Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?
Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world
makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says,
The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.
So submit yourselves to God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning
and your joy into dejection.
Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will exalt you.
It all comes down to what we love. Never one to mince words, in today’s first reading James declares that every Christian has a choice: we can choose to be lovers of the world and therefore enemies of God; or we can choose to be lovers and friends of God but therefore enemies of the world. But we cannot choose both because each leads to very different ways of life.
It sounds so harsh, so extreme and, perhaps most of all, so unnecessary. Does turning to God really mean turning away from the world? But we can think of this passage from James as a keenly perceptive analysis of the human heart. Human beings are creatures of devotion, creatures looking to give our hearts away to whatever we think will bring us life, whatever we think will complete us, fulfill us, and bring some peace to our famously restless hearts. The trouble starts not so much when we give our hearts to things that are bad, but when we begin preferring lesser things over more important goods; when, in the words of James, we “covet” things that can never bring us the happiness and contentment we hope from them. If, as Christianity teaches, we who have been created by God can only be fulfilled in God, then becoming lovers and friends of God is the only way to genuine joy and peace.
The Christian life is about transforming our desires and changing our hearts. It is about becoming the kind of person that Jesus describes in today’s gospel (Mark 9:30-37). Unlike the disciples who were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest, we should be the kind of person who, like Jesus, can find joy in spending time with a child.
It really does come down to what we love.