James 5: 9-12
Mark 10: 1-12
Are you all in? Are you fully invested in following Jesus? That seems to be a continuing question being raised in the liturgical readings for the past week. In the letter of James we have consistently been given advice about what it means to live a fully Christian life. We have been advised not to complain or enter into bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Nor should we covet or rely on our earthly possessions. Rather we should draw near to God and be pure, peaceable, gentle and compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. We are called to endure hardships patiently and to persevere in following Jesus.
The various accounts from the Gospel of John have also challenged us about what it means to follow Christ. Christ testified that anything can be accomplished if our faith is strong enough though the hardness of our hearts often keeps us from understanding what Christ is trying to show us. When Jesus tells his disciples that he will be killed yet will rise again on the third day, they don’t “understand…and are afraid to ask him any questions.” In response to their desire to “be first,” he says the way to being first is to be last and the servant of all. Jesus further says that they must remove any obstacle that keeps them from being faithful even if it’s a valuable part of their bodies! And in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that it is their “hardness of heart” that kept Moses from teaching the sacredness of their commitment in marriage. Throughout this entire week, we have been challenged over and over again to assess the depth of our commitment to Christ.
It isn’t hard to recognize ourselves in some of the attitudes that James condemns and in some of the virtues he recommends. It’s also true that most of us haven’t achieved the purity of heart into which Jesus continues to invite us. So we continue to trust that Christ will show us mercy by patiently transforming us as we struggle to follow him.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.