Tag Archives: St. James

Walking in Peace with St. James: Chapter 5

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 5:  Warning to the Rich, Patience and Oaths, Anointing of the Sick, Confession and Intercession and Conversion of Sinners

And so we end the Letter of St. James with a plea for patience and conversion.  We get one final glimpse into the concrete life of the community.  We see that they have institutionalized healing in a ritual of anointing and prayer for the sick by the elders of the church.  They have also developed some form of mutual confession and prayer for forgiveness (Reading the New Testament, p. 299).  Perhaps these sacramental moments of grace helped heal the divisions among them?  Do they for us?

This section on the Anointing of the Sick causes questions about the sacrament.  The seven sacraments weren’t instituted until the Council of Trent in 1716-19.  So Anointing of the Sick was not considered a sacrament at the time of James yet, but it does appear that church elders (presbyters of the church) were the ones to do it.  Was it considered a holy action continuing the work of Jesus?  What about other faiths who do not follow the Catholic tradition of the seven sacraments…what would they make of this passage?  (Note that Martin Luther did consider dropping this book from the canon.)  (Brown, Raymond E.  An Introduction to the New Testament, p.  736-746)

James has come increasingly to be regarded as a book of the church:  it depicts the practical like of a community where people pray for each other and confess their sins to one another, and where people are committed to social ministry on behalf of those in distress.  It is a community where the suffering and the cheerful gather for prayer and praise, a place where diseases are healed, sins are forgiven, and souls are saved from death.  The community is composed of people who love the Lord and who are committed to loving their neighbors.  But they are also sinners, people who struggle with temptation and sometimes yield to partiality, pride and worldly cravings.  The letter echoes the Didache, an early Christian writing, which said, “If you can bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you cannot, do as much as you can.”  (Powell, Introducing the New Testament, p. 460-461)  What better can we do as church?

How might these teachings help you this Lent?  find peace?

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).

Walking in Peace with St. James: Chapter 3

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 3

Power of the Tongue

Gossip.  We often do it because we want to belong.  This longing to be on the inside is such a pull.  It is a desire that nags at us, like food stuck in our teeth. “Desire makes us act and when we act what we do will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our personalities, minds , and bodies – and to the strengthening or deterioration of our relationship to God, others and the cosmic world,” (Rolheiser,The Holy Longing, p. 7).  The desire to be on the inside, through our words, shapes who we are.  This affects the world around us, and our relationship with God.

How can we tell if we are gossiping or not?  There are questions we could ask ourselves:

  1. How reasonable is it for me to believe in the truth of what I say?
  2. How damaging is what I say to the reputation of the person I am talking about? (Westacott, The Virtues of Our Vices, p. 57)
  3. What is the motivation behind it? (Epstein, Gossip:  The Untrivial Pursuit, p. 25)

If what we are talking about is truthful, life-giving and with good intention, then the gossip may be considered good.  Another rule of thumb is whether you would say it to the person’s face if present.  Odds are that the talk is safe.  “Who among you loves life, take delight in prosperous days?  Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it,” (Psalm 34:  13-15).

True Wisdom

James talks about acting one way but feeling the opposite.  Can you identify?  Being double-minded is not having a singleness of purpose.  It is as if we are at war with ourselves.  We cannot serve two masters.  Jesus tells us, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other,” (Matthew 6:24).  Soren Kierkegaard reflected on this idea.  He said, “If it is possible that a man can will only one thing then he must will the good,” (A Kierkegaard Anthology, p. 271).  This is a singularity of thought.  This is living authentically.  It is not living with two masters.  It is behaving as true to ourselves as we are able.  Yet even when we fail, we can turn back again.  Kierkegaard continues in hope, “For as the Good is only a single thing, so all ways lead to the Good, even the false ones – when the repentant one follows the same way back…let your heart in truth will only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity,” (p. 272).   Even when we choose wrong, we can follow our way back to the good.

Then he ends:  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.  What does this mean to you?

How are these themes reflected in the documentary, Walking the Camino?

How might these teachings help you find peace?

Walking in Peace with St. James: Chapter 2

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 2

SIN OF PARTIALITY

A community meeting is described where 2 clients come to the elders for a judgment (1 Co 6:1-6).  James attacks the favoritism that is naturally shown to successful and influential people, arguing that such is wrong.  In a different context Paul insisted on God’s lack of favoritism, both in judgment (Rom 2:11) and in election (Rom 3:22; 10:12); this impartiality destroyed the privileged position of the Jews as God’s favorites and led to a radical sense of egalitarianism in the Pauline churches (see Gal 3:28).  This is probably the basis for James’ attack on favoritism here:  God’s impartiality to us and our equal status in the church.  How does faith/love of God show itself practically in our lives?  (Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 52-53).

FAITH AND WORKS

James seems to differ from Paul in his theology of faith and works.  James says they go hand in hand, where Paul says we are saved by faith alone.  In Romans 4:3, Paul describes Abraham as being righteous whether he did good works or not.  In James 2:21, he says how Abraham was active in his faith and works, that his faith was completed by the works.

For Paul, God is the one who accepts us unconditionally, and when we allow him to do this (faith!), then we live in a new world and we are new persons.  Faith is the acceptance of our new status:  that of being real human beings in the presence of the real God.  Faith is the act of accepting freedom.  This freedom is, first of all, freedom from the “law of works.” From the need to force acceptance from God through our meritorious works.  But the freedom in question is also freedom from sin and death…we are called to accept as gifts from his hands whatever good works or achievements are the inevitable results when we allow him to accept us unconditionally, (Dwyer, J.  The Word Was Made Flesh, p. 111-112).

Of course the “works” which James demands Christians perform – providing charity for the poor brother or sister – are not the “works” of Judaizing by Gentiles against which Paul was arguing.  Some interpreters think that just as Paul had to counter sloganizing among the Corinthians, so James is dealing with a sloganizing about faith which may have originated in popular reports of Pauline teaching, (Perkins, P.  Reading the New Testament, p. 298).  Most theologians agree that there is no real argument here.  Paul and James appear to be talking past each other, using words such as justification, works and faith to mean different things. James may be responding not to Paul but rather to a misunderstanding of Paul.  In any case, perhaps his words should be read on their own merit, (Powell, M.  Introducing the New Testament, p. 455).  Spend some time in prayer mulling over where you stand in the argument for faith vs. works.

How are these themes reflected in the documentary, Walking the Camino?

How might these teachings help you find peace?

Walking in Peace with St. James: Overview and Chapter 1

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.

History of the Apostle St. James

James was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee.  His life changed when Jesus came along and asked him to follow him; he dropped his nets and left with his brother.  He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.  He saw Jesus preach in the synagogue, heal Simon’s mother-in-law, raise Jairus’ daughter, be transfigured and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.  James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.  Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.

St. James & Spain

There are legends that explain how the relics of St. James ended up in Compostela, Spain.  These legends were the basis for the pilgrimage route that began to be established in the 9th century, and the shrine dedicated to James at Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia in Spain, became the most famous pilgrimage site in the Christian world. The Way of St. James is a tree of routes that cross Western Europe and arrive at Santiago through Northern Spain. Eventually James became the patron saint of Spain, but also of hat makers, rheumatoid sufferers and laborers.  (www.catholic.org)

Letter of St. James

Though it is unmistakably Christian, this book has a very Jewish feel to it.  Jesus is mentioned by name only twice (1:1, 2:1), and there are no references to the saving effects of his death and resurrection or to the gift and work of God’s Holy Spirit.  Instead, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts, like a guidebook down the path of life.

There is still debate among theologians who wrote this epistle.  It is most widely attributed to Jesus’ “brother” James, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (James the Just, not the apostle).  The letter starts as being addressed to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, which could mean descendants of Abraham (12 tribes) or Jews who live outside of Palestine (dispersed).  Metaphorically, it could be Christians who are the new Israel (as a select group) or all Christians dispersed on the earth.  The ambiguity speaks to what the writer was probably feeling at the time, and his audience.  Christianity was so new (Powell, Intro. the New Testament, p. 445-450)..  We don’t even know when it was written, whether 60s or perhaps later in the 80s & 90s.  Despite the reflection of Jewish Christian traditions, the writing itself suggests a Greek-speaking Jewish community because of its elegance (Perkins, Reading the New Testament, p. 297).

So there is mystery with James the Apostle, James the Just and this letter.  We will sit with this mystery and see how it helps us in our Lenten journey.

Chapter 1

Most letters start in thanksgiving…not James!  He tells us to consider our trials and difficulties with JOY!  Difficulties show our true worth.  They make us stronger and help us see perspective.  How does this show in your life?  He encourages us to seek God with a full heart with our troubles.  Doubt makes us unstable, a “man of two minds”.  Have you ever been torn in your faith?  What happens when we are of two minds?

James also tells us that we are not only to talk the talk but walk the walk.  He draws a picture that when we don’t do as we say, it is like looking at ourselves in the mirror, having forgotten what we looked like.  What does this mean to you?