In other words, what passions rule your existence?
Human willfulness is a powerful force. When, in the Book of Wisdom, the wicked beset the just one, it is because they themselves are not in right relationship with God – the just one knows that they are guilty of transgressions of the law and violations of their own training. Like the speaker in Psalm 54, who knows that the Lord upholds his life, the just one loves God and lives to express that love, and so he stands in opposition to those who reject the covenant standards of mercy and gentleness and constancy that the Letter of James describes. Reminding his audience that they need to rely upon wisdom from above rather than their own passions and parameters, James exhorts them to cultivate peace by their attention to relationship with other – rather than jealousy and ambition – and through that relationship, to cultivate their relationship with God.
The passions of jealousy and ambition and willfulness are no strangers to Jesus’ disciples. In Mark’s Gospel, rather than listen to the Lord, who frightens them with stories of his imminent death, they discuss among themselves who is the greatest. Because they can’t bear to hear what Jesus says, they express instead their own insecurities and are able to access only their own limited experience and comprehension rather than opening to Jesus’ teaching. Ultimately, Jesus can only reach them by taking a child, putting his arms around it, and saying, Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. It is a call away from willfulness to willingness, a call to serve other.
One of our biggest struggles as human beings is our fear of being inadequate – and that fear often drives us, causing us to do things we are not proud of. But God’s love for us makes us capable of mercy and gentleness, capable of loving in our turn, if only we open to it. To be in right relationship, to live according to the dictates of wisdom rather than by our own narrow perspectives, to do God’s will in Jesus’ name: all of these bind us more profoundly to the one in whose name we serve, and in whose name we love, letting go of our own willfulness, that we might surrender, in love, to the needs of our world.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: www.wordle.net