Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Fifth Sunday after Easter—1 May AD 2016

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“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”[1]


On the Catholic Epistle of Saint James

     This week, as well as last week, the Epistle was taken from what is known as the “catholic” epistle of St. James.  The word “catholic” means “universal,” and it indicates that it was written for all Christians, and not just for a single community.

    As such, it contains a pretty good summary of what it takes to be a good practical Catholic—and it has the added value of being relatively concise; the five chapters can be read in well under an hour, even by a slow reader.  I'd like to tell you a little about the contents, but hope that you will read it for yourself some day soon.

    Both this week’s and last week’s readings come from Chapter One.  Saint James tells us that if we have patience in suffering the tribulations of this world, we will be given all that is necessary for our salvation.  We need not to hesitate in going to God with our needs.  That's what our Lord is telling us in the Gospel also, when He tells us: “Ask and you shall receive....”[2]

    God does not tempt us to sin.  Any of our temptations arise from our own passions; from our own fickleness, and inability to make up our mind about what is truly good for us.  Remember, God doesn't change, but we often do—in a way, we live in the “shadow of alteration.”[3]

    Saint James gives us some practical advice about how to conquer our passions and refrain from sin.  We should “be slow to speak,” not quickly jumping to action without considering the consequences.  We need to refrain from worldly things, which we can have only at the expense of heavenly things.

    But, we should be “doers, and not only hearers of the word.”  We must not try to gain favor with the rich and the influential, while spurning those who have fewer material blessings.  Indeed, we are exhorted to share our material things with those who are less fortunate, the “orphans and widows in their tribulation.”  Our Faith has to have a practical dimension to it, united to good works, both charitable and spiritual.

    Lest anyone think the belief alone is enough for salvation, he reminds us that even the devil believes—“the devils also believe and [yet] tremble”—The devil believes because he knows the truth of God's word with certainty, yet he still sinned and urges us on to sin.  “The devils also believe, and tremble,” he says.[4]

    We must keep the entire law of God.  It is foolish to think that we can serve God by keeping His law selectively.  If we decide that we're going to keep seven or eight out of the Ten Commandments, we are fooling ourselves.  Breaking one or two makes us sinners, just as though we had broken all ten.  A serious sin against any one robs us of sanctifying grace, and the life of God in our soul.

    James stresses the need to bring ourselves under self control;  controlling ourselves as we would control a horse, with a bit in our mouths and reins to keep us in check;  controlling ourselves like the steersman on a ship, who by using the rudder is able to make the boat go wherever he wills.  He reminds us of the need, most especially, to control the tongue, because of all  the damage that it is capable of doing.  “It is a fire, setting the course of our life on fire, being itself set on fire by hell.  A small fire that kindles a great forest.”[5]

    We must not envy, nor engage in contention.  We must glory in the truth.  Be chaste, peaceable, moderate, full of mercy.  Not judgmental, not envious, nor given to passion.  Don't speak up against you brother—be patient.

    He tells us that we need to change our emphasis: to “lay up treasure in heaven where it will not become moth eaten, nor subject to rot and rust.”  If our treasure is in heaven instead of earth, our hearts will also be in heaven, and will be much more able to deal with worldly temptation.

    There is also an important social emphasis in this Epistle.  We are to share each other’s burdens—to have compassion, to console and bring joy to the sad, to sympathize with the sick, to relieve their suffering, and to show them that it has meaning in union with Christ. To have the priest anoint them for strength and forgiveness of sins.[6]   We are to reassure the uncertain, to counsel the doubtful, to help them overcome their moral failings.

    Finally, James closes by pointing up the importance of bringing back those who stray from ways of God.  This is so important that he tells us that if we bring someone back to the Faith, “we will save our soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins.”[7]



    Saint James Epistle is a beautifully written thing—easily readable, and containing almost everything we need to know to be a good, practical, Catholic.

    But it doesn't do you much good if you don't read it!

    And when you do read it, remember that it is more than just something to be read.  It is a call to much more than just faith and belief.  It is a call to action—a call to live as Christians—being not just hearers, but also doers of Christ's word.



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