Fifth Sunday after Easter—17 May AD 2020
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“Brethren, be doers of
and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
The readings at Mass, this Sunday and
last, as well as the readings in the Breviary all during this week, have
been from the Epistle of St. James. It is often called the “catholic”
epistle in the sense that is universal; written not to one particular
community as most epistles are, but written for the Church at large.
Today we would call it an “encyclical” or an “apostolic letter.” It was
on the weekly reading guide on the Internet, but if you missed it, I
hope you'll read it soon.
It is only five chapters long. It is important because it reads like a
catechism of how to be a practical Catholic in the real world.
It may be useful for me to give you a
In chapter 1, we learn that God will
give us the things that are holy and useful for us, just as in today's
At times we will be tempted, but not
beyond our means to resist and resisting temptation is a means of
gaining God's graces.
There is no change in God, no
imperfection, “no shadow of alteration.”
True religion (in addition to faith
and the worship of God) requires that we hold our tongue with our
neighbor, and look after his needs. We must refrain from immorality.
“We must be doers and not simply hearers of God's word.”
Chapter 2 cautions us not to be
“respecters of persons,” not treating one better than another because of
wealth, power, or social position.
“There is no faith without works.”
“The devils believe and tremble.” We must do good where it is required,
or chance losing our souls. These are not the dead ritual works of the
Old Law, but the life-giving works of charity of the New Testament.
Chapter 3 cautions us about the
terrible dangers of the tongue, “a small fire which kindles great logs
… and even great forests.” A tiny member that can bless or curse.
Avoid all bitterness, jealousy, and
contention: “Where there is envy and contention, there is inconstancy
and every evil work.” “The fruit of justice is sown in peace to those
who make peace.”
Chapter 4: “You ask and you receive
not, because you ask amiss.” We can't ask for anything, and ask for it
in Jesus name, if it is contrary to the will of God. We must learn to
conform our will to the will of God. “Fiat voluntas tua Thy will be
“Be humble in the sight of the Lord,”
for “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.” Pride yields
“Detract not one another.” Not only
must we not lie about one another—we must not even tell the truth about
another if it will damage his reputation!
“Life is a vapor that lasts but a
while and then vanishes.” Don't formulate long term and boastful
plans: “I'm gonna do this. I'm gonna do that.” Rather say, “if the
Lord permits me the opportunity, I will make use of his graces in the
Chapter 5: Take nothing from another
by fraud. Gold and silver tarnish, clothing is eaten by the moths.
“Lay up treasure in heaven.”
It is in St. James's epistle that we
are exhorted to confession, and hear for the first time about Extreme
Unction, the anointing of the sick: “bring in the presbyters of the
Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name
of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the
Lord will raise him up, and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven.”
And the last promise that St. James
make is this. “He who causes a sinner to be brought back from his
misguided way, will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude
of sins.” It is difficult to think of anything more meritorious that
getting a sinner to return to God’s good graces!
“Every good gift comes
down from the Father of Lights.”
“Be doers of the word,
and not just hearers, deceiving yourselves!”