25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
This Sunday, the second reading will be from James 3:16-4:3. I suggest reading the other readings as well, for context. It’s lectionary # 134, if you’re reading from a hard copy.
There is a Native American Fable - or maybe an adage - about a boy who talks to his grandfather about two dogs fighting inside of him. One is a good dog, who represents virtues, and the other is an evil dog, who represents vices. The boy asks his grandfather which dog will win, to which the old man replied, “the one you feed.”
This is very much what James is talking about in this section of the letter. All of us have an ongoing battle inside of us, between wisdom, which is from God, and our passions, which are not.
The righteous are always hated by whatever society they’re in. Throughout the Old Testament, prophets are reviled, hated, and sometimes killed for trying to call Israel back to God. Today we’re all too often told that a good Christian is a quiet Christian.
There will always be something of a societal battle between what is of below and what is from above - a battle between wisdom, which is from God (and the fruits of wisdom) are an inconvenience to our passions because they make us feel guilty and judged. They are likewise an inconvenience to the world - by their mere visible presence, they make other feel guilty and judged.
And the world naturally will hate that. Every revilement, torture, and persecution that is ever set before us because of the culture is always an occasion for them to be watching us.
I was thinking about the first Spiderman movie from 2002, and it occurred to me that every now and again, the villain show surprising insight into the human condition. The Green Goblin is the one who observes, “the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying.”
This is exactly what happens when the culture pushes back against us. Every year when I go to the LA Life March we are warned in firm language that there will be “counter-protesters” there, and the best thing to say to them is nothing. They are looking for a photo-op of any one of us getting mad, so smile!
They don’t want to see the love of Christ. They don’t want to see the beauty of the gospel. They want us to betray our training, demonstrate that we’re just like them, that there’s nothing special about us. They want to see us fail at being good Christians.
And falling is the easiest thing to do. Nobody likes to turn the other cheek - that it s to say, nobody enjoys it - it’s painful, and requires mastering your very deep desire to haul off and deck someone who probably deserves it. And yet it is what we are to do.
Admittedly the ability to choose the fruits of wisdom and godliness takes a lot of discipline - and a lot of grace.
If we ask often in prayer what is in opposition to our passions, we may rely on God’s grace to see us through those hard moments when the hosts of Satan try to take us in.
Let’s pray this week for the grace to do exactly that:
- To call on God when our passions draw us toward temptation.
- To rely on his grace to see us through when Satan tries to use our human nature to draw us into sin.
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Original image above from Pixabay.