My memory of growing up in Omaha is that the month of May was filled with days of bright sunlight, blooming flowers, May Crownings, and warm days in the park. But recent experiences of May have proven less idyllic, if it was ever so. I am more aware of the tug of war between winter and summer. One day of lovely south breezes is followed by strong north winds coming off Lake Michigan, plunging the temperature back into the 40’s. It is a time when the life we know is there in the Earth struggles to emerge. But emerge it certainly will.
The Letter from James today reflects something of the same tension. He seems keenly aware of the tension between sin and grace. He appreciates that we all struggle to live a good life, but reassures us that hope and reconciliation break through the barriers in our life that keep us from becoming the men and women God created us to be.
These barriers are evident in the Gospel reading, a story that is both profoundly disturbing and heartwarming. The disciples, rebuking those bringing children to Jesus, must have thought they were doing the right thing by imposing some order on the crowds. But Mark writes, “When Jesus saw this he became indignant….” Jesus saw the barriers the disciples were putting up. Jesus was always needing to help his friends resolve the tension of their wanting to do right instead of doing good. He stays faithful to them as they sort out sin from grace.
We all struggle in allowing the life within us to emerge. Sometimes others impose barriers on us, and at times we erect our own. The first step in allowing the fullness of life to emerge is to recognize and name the barrier, the sin, and trust that new life unfolds as sure as we know summer finally will win out. We just need to be patient with the process.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.