Reflection on Jam 2:21-22Post date: 2019-06-01
Reflection on Jam 2:21-22
The previous Word of life, which we repeated for two weeks and let it work on us, was quite clear to us: The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. We can see it in our everyday life, and therefore we understand this word of God. The last sentence, however, is a little unclear: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Everyone can understand it differently. To be led by the Spirit means to walk in the obedience of faith like the Blessed Virgin or like Abraham our father who is set as an example to us. Those who are led by the Spirit of God will not act against the law; on the contrary, they will keep the law.
In the Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul explains one more question concerning the law which is a bit unfamiliar to us. It is the question of circumcision and observance of the laws of Moses on various forms of purification with emphasis on ritualism, which eventually de facto quenched the Spirit. That was why the Apostle Paul had a perfectly free attitude towards this sphere of the law. After all, Jesus also consciously “profaned” the Sabbath when He healed the sick man, allowed the disciples to pluck heads of grain and the like. What we need in our life if we are to live a true relationship to God is to have our eyes fixed on the end goal and to use the necessary means leading to this end. But we often turn these means into the end – and this is legalism. We lose our relationship to God and are completely absorbed in ceremonialism and external observance of the law. This is what the Apostle Paul fights against. He writes about it in the Epistles to the Galatians, Romans, Colossians… That is why he also fights against circumcision itself. If we observed circumcision, we would have to observe all regulations, and we would lose the relationship with Christ. This is the essence of what the Holy Spirit speaks through the Apostle Paul in his Epistles. Jesus Himself convicts the Pharisees of this. For example, they offered Corban but thus neglected the commandment “Honour your father and your mother”.
There is the same danger in our Christian conditions. The emphasis is laid on the means, and the end disappears. An example is German theology which seems to expound the Scriptures in depth but in fact the spirit behind it is the spirit of hypocrisy and heresy. Today we can see the fruits of this theology which directly opposes God. It undermines God’s laws, both the Ten Commandments and the commandments of Christ. It even approves of homosexuality and using various pious phrases it always evades the essence, so instead of leading to God it leads away from God into perdition. We know this poisonous tree of human philosophizing by its fruit. True faith must be connected with life! As Jesus says: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. And now this is what the Apostle James emphasizes too when he says that faith without works is dead, and he mentions Abraham our father who believed God and in the obedience of faith was prepared to sacrifice, i.e. to kill, his own son, which today would be classified as a crime, as murder. We have to realize here that Abraham was a pagan to whom God revealed Himself. He came out of a pagan culture where human sacrifice was practised. God only tried Abraham; ultimately he did not kill his son. For example, to commit an abortion and to justify it by Abraham’s example would be the height of hypocrisy! We can see that one can easily manipulate the truths of faith. We can also speak about manipulation when German theologians say that they progress and are no longer under the law. But in fact, they break God’s commandments. What spirit leads them? Not the Spirit of God but a demonic spirit, the spirit of lies and death. It is evidenced by the fruit today. Unfortunately, this German theology with heresies and apostasy is embraced by many students in Rome who then return home as heretics. Beware of them! And not only in Rome, even the seminarians in Ukraine study heretical literature and then promote heresies as a new, so-called dynamic approach to the deposit of faith. Young students of theology, who have not experienced a conversion of heart, who do not follow Christ and who consider prayer pointless, are inclined to heresies and find them attractive. These students become active, often even hyperactive or “creative”, but in what? In committing calculated suicide, both spiritual and then even physical.
If we argued that there is a contradiction between the Apostle Paul and the Apostle James on ground that James says that we are saved by works rather than by faith, it would be a heresy. We are saved by faith, but we must do the works of faith, otherwise we will lose the saving faith. We must live by faith. The righteous lives by faith. We cannot be saved by our own works, the less so because they are soaked with our selfishness and vain glory which we seek even in piety like the Pharisees. They ostentatiously walked around in long robes with wide sleeves and loved to be called ‘Rabbi’, wherefore Jesus rebuked them and called them whitewashed tombs. Finally, they condemned Jesus to be crucified because they did not have the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of God, and both their works and their faith were dead.
In chapter 2, beginning with verse 14, the Apostle James speaks about the relation between faith and works. He criticizes a sort of academic faith which does admit certain truths but is dead. He also criticizes those who say that they believe but it is only a cloak to cover their spiritual laziness because they neither pray, nor follow Christ nor keep Christ’s commandments. Here the Apostle James says that even the demons believe – and tremble. Such faith will not save anyone. It is dead. And then he adds (in verses 23-26): “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
Not only Abraham, Moses, David and all the prophets but above all the Virgin Mary is an example of the obedience of faith for us. Jesus gave her to us as our Mother at the hour of death. We ask: Why? A Czech proverb says: A mother not only gives birth but also guides (i.e. brings up) her child. Another proverb says: Like mother like daughter. Unfortunately, our natural mother is Eve. We all have inherited the programme of sin from her. We revolve around our ego, which leads us into suffering, problems, and ultimately into eternal death. That is why we must be born again of the Spirit of God. We must receive Christ. But we also need educators, teachers – and who is the best teacher for children in life? Who else than their mother? If a mother is good, then her children are good too. If a mother is bad, then her children are bad too. A mother brings up her children both by word and example. Let us look at the Mother of Jesus. She was preserved from original sin, i.e. spiritual poison, which was passed on to us through Eve, our common earthly mother. However, Mary not only was preserved by God but she also cooperated with grace and acted in faith. At the moment of the Incarnation she said her ‘yes’ to God and Elizabeth, led by the Holy Spirit, said about her: Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord! The Word became flesh, God became man, through her faith. And through faith we also are to receive Jesus. He must increase in us, and we must decrease (cf. Jn 3:30).
What was Mary’s attitude when she was about to give birth to Jesus and suddenly the decree was issued to go more than 100 km on foot in a cold season from Nazareth to Bethlehem? She did not complain but accepted that situation in the obedience of faith. It was not an angel of the Lord who spoke to her now; it was just a decree from Caesar Augustus that reached the whole Roman Empire. It ordered a census of the population. She did not even complain when she had to flee to Egypt with the child Jesus during the night. She did not say: “The angel of God should protect me, so why should I flee? It would be cowardice, weak faith…” No, no, nothing like that. She obeyed the command to flee spoken through Joseph in that situation. And she also returned at the appointed time, neither sooner nor later. Then she lived a hidden life in Nazareth. She had to balance relations with her neighbours who often looked after their own selfish interests; she saw their weaknesses and it grieved her when they behaved angrily or unfairly. She did not condemn them but tried to build these personal relationships within the bounds of obedience to God. This involved sacrifice and self-denial, and often even self-humiliation. Similarly, our life is not about some heroic deeds; maybe we will have the opportunity to do them but only a few times or once in life. Our life is made up of ordinary days in which we are to seek God’s will and to do our duties. And here the Virgin Mary is an example for us to follow. She talked with God, telling Him about her sorrows or problems. She also perceived the influence of evil around her in the very ordinary town of Nazareth, where people were just like us, with their own selfish views. Yes, this is the most important thing: to talk with God in prayer, when we make time for God and for our soul, and to talk with Him even in our suffering or everyday cares. Every work brings along some problems or hardships and every day consists of little troubles caused either by ourselves and our failings or by circumstances, people, illness, fear, seemingly unsolvable problems which weigh us down, problems with children, problems in the family or in the workplace, various misfortunes... This is everyday life and we should look at it with the eyes of faith, accept life’s trials in the obedience of faith and give thanks for them. Unlike the Blessed Virgin, we should also praise God seven times a day for His righteous judgments, as the Scripture says. In other words, we should go through our purgatory here on earth so that we may be spared purgatory after death. However, it is not just our purgatory but our mission at the same time, because we can offer our suffering as a sacrifice to God for the spiritual resurrection of our nation, our family, and so on. So we must talk to God. Every day offers so many opportunities! When we are waiting somewhere and we are helpless, unable to hasten things or to do anything, we need not make our mobile phones red hot or quickly put on earphones and listen to bad music or other nonsense. On the contrary, we need to communicate with God! Let us realize: Lord, You see me, You are here, You love me. I give You my sin, my self-will, and I give You my problem which troubles me now. We need to communicate; we need to share our grief or our problem with someone, but many times there is no one to listen to us. People are busy and have no time. All have their own problems and so parents do not have time for their children, husbands for their wives, etc. Everyone surfs on the internet and lives in his own world, insulated from reality. As a result, families are broken up. Relationships are broken because we have lost the vertical dimension, communication with God.
I remember an 85 year-old woman from Croatia who boldly confessed her faith in the atheistic environment in a remote village. She was ridiculed for her faith every time she went to church, but she bravely continued on her way. She talked to Jesus about her health, her illnesses and her worries about the salvation of people who had abandoned her and had no time for her anymore. But she was never alone, she was with Him. A simple woman. One day she was baking a cake and could not take the cake pan out of the old oven. At once she turned to Jesus for help – and she did it. Every day she had a lot of such very simple experiences. One Sunday she did not come to church, which I noticed easily as there only used to be about five people at the Mass in the village. So I went to her house after the Mass. She was lying sick in bed. When she saw me, she smiled and said that she had just asked the Lord Jesus if I could come and not forget to bring the sacraments to her. Then she told me briefly that she felt the Lord Jesus was calling her and that was why she prayed so earnestly for me as a priest to come. And when she had joyfully received Jesus in the Eucharist, I prayed with her and soon after I left, after less than an hour, she gave her soul to Jesus. She had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin and prayed to her with great confidence. The image of the Blessed Virgin took the central part in her poor house – and really not only the image. She would spend hours before this icon, praying and singing religious hymns to the Lord Jesus and to His Holy Mother. So she lived and so she died. And then she passed on to eternal glory.
To live by faith. The Blessed Virgin is our greatest example. Certainly, we are called to follow the Lord Jesus; He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. But who will teach us best how to follow Him faithfully? The Holy Spirit, of course, but Jesus has not only sent us the Holy Spirit but He has also given us His Mother. We must remember that through Mary and the Holy Spirit, He Himself came into this world. And He wants to come again. But He not only wants to come, He wants to live in us. And if He is to live in us, to be really our Lord and God rather than a prisoner, hungry, thirsty or naked, we need the Mother of Jesus to teach us to live in such a relationship with Him. Let us therefore have recourse to her with trust every day and try to ask ourselves: How would Mary act if she were in my place in this situation? What would she do? I am her spiritual son, her daughter, so I should follow her, I should look at her example of how to live with Jesus, how to communicate with God – and I should do likewise. Then, in the hour of death, I will not regret. Each day is like one page in the book of my life and if I live it with Mary, it will not remain empty. It will be full of prayers, simple acts of love, little sacrifices, self-denials and humility, and these treasures will be neither stolen by thieves nor destroyed by rust. These are eternal treasures. Let us collect them every day, making the most of every opportunity, because we know neither the day nor the hour when God will call us from this life. So let us live by faith!
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