Walking in Peace with St. James: Chapter 4

St. James

Opening Prayer…

St. James!
We come to you in eager pilgrimage.

We come as part of a great throng of pilgrims
who through the centuries have come to this place,
where you are pilgrim and host, apostle and patron.
We come to you today because we are on a common journey.
Place yourself, patron of pilgrims, at the head of our pilgrimage.
Teach us, apostle and friend of the Lord, the WAY which leads to him.
Open us, preacher of the Gospel,                                                                  to the TRUTH you learned from your Master’s lips.
Give us, witness of the faith,
the strength always to love the LIFE Christ gives.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Chapter 4

Causes of Division

Where do wars come from?  We still ask this question.  James seems to think it has something to do with our passions and putting too much focus on this world instead of the next.  Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for standing up for the poor, echoes the same sentiment.  In a homily broadcasted throughout El Salvador, he said, “The commitment to be a Christian is this:  to follow Christ in the incarnation.  If Christ is the majestic God who becomes human, humble unto a slave’s death on a cross, and lives (now) with the poor, so should be our Christian faith.  Christ invites us not to fear persecution because, you must believe my friends, those who commit themselves to the poor have to accept the same destiny as the poor.  And in El Salvador, we know what the destiny of the poor is:  to be captured, to be tortured, to reappear as corpses.”  We must be one with the poor, not stuck in our own way of doing things in our little worlds.  If we ignore the suffering, it is a social sin.  We must draw near to God and listen to how God wants us to serve.  Romero later said, “As a pastor, I am obliged, by divine command, to give my life for those whom I love – and that is all Salvadorans, even those who may assassinate me…They will be wasting their time.  A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish…If I am killed, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.”  Wow-that is following Christ in the incarnation.  What does this wake up in you?

Warning against Presumption

James stresses that Christianity requires a sweeping and pervasive change in our lives which are totally caught up in God.  The contrast is clear:  God is Lord, not we (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 61).  This is metanoia, turning around, to live with a new heart in a new spirit.  How do we do this?  Prayer.  “A heart sensitive to God is born in prayer and is nurtured by prayerful attention to the presence of God in the diverse experiences of living.  A heart so sensitive is alert to the diverse ways of God and can read the signs of God’s presence and action in the world.  Without this prayerful attentiveness to God, moral reflection stops short of attending to the fullness of the relationships which make up the moral life,” (Reason Informed by Faith, Gula, p. 15).

It may be largely because of James that many theologians now speak not only of orthodoxy (right thinking, correct dogma) but also of orthopraxis (right practice, correct behavior), and specifically of the orthopraxis of the church as a whole in a way that transcends concerns for personal morality…This letter of James has also been prized by various peace movements for its keen insight into the reasons for conflict, war, and strife (Introducing the New Testament, Powell, p. 459-460).

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