For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
They key to the letter of James comes in his very practical challenge that we should act on God’s word that has been preached to us. We are to be doers of God’s word, not just hearers of it. This sounds a lot like the challenge of Ignatius Loyola when he reminds us that our love is shown more in deeds than in words.
This teaching became very real when I met Robertina, a 45-year old mother of six children who lives in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Her son was standing out in front of their home one night, laughing with friends, when tires screeched as a car lurched around the corner. Shots rang out… and her son Alberto was shot to death. It turned out later that gang members killed him by mistake.
At the end of his funeral, Robertina went to the lectern. In a strong voice filled with emotion she addressed the overflow crowd and said: “There can be no more violence; no more killing. I forgive whoever it is who killed my son. His death must not be an excuse for any act of retaliation of one gang against another, or one group of families against another. Let us change our hearts and open them to God’s love.” Then this true “mother of sorrows” went to her pew, sat down, and wept.
If we are to be “doers of the Word” then we must come to understand the Wisdom of the cross. We must throw in our lot with Jesus of Nazareth. He it is who desires to use our particular gifts and talents for the healing and hope of our world. He it is who throws us into relationship with another, a relationship grounded in God’s own generous, life-giving love. He it is who reminds us that the greatest will surely become the least; the first will certainly end up last. He it is who insists that it is in noticing and embracing society’s most vulnerable that we receive Jesus himself. This is the epitome of true wisdom.
—The Jesuit prayer team
Lord, here we are again. There is seldom a day that passes where we do not need your wisdom. Should we speak up; should we wait? Should we move in this direction or should we pause and continue seeking? Where is that balance between patience and generosity and being a push over? How will we know that it is your wisdom directing us and not our own rationalized will shaping our behavior? We ask for the grace to evaluate our choices by the guidelines of St. James: “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” We move forward confident that your wisdom will indeed bless us with a life of meaning and significance.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team