James 1: 19-25
Keep in mind, dear brothers. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for a man's anger does not fulfill God's justice. Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess. Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. If all you do is listen to it you are deceiving yourselves.
A man who listens to God's word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face he was born with: he looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looks like. There is, on the other hand, the man who peers into freedom's ideal law and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law in practice. Blest will this man be in whatever he does.
Sometimes God puts challenges before us that we perceive as almost impossible to overcome. For me, these are usually issues that arise within my family, or our extended family. A sister-in-law who is slowly destroying herself through addiction and stubbornness. How to reach this person when so many obstacles lie between us? Counseling a family member is so hard; it was much easier at the shelter. We listened to them, tucked them in at night and then went home, hoping we did our best. With a family member sometimes your charity falls on deaf ears, and we must accept whatever God gives back to us in humbleness and humility. No shouting or screaming. Just trust in God. Oh, is that hard when the person your dealing with is someone you hold dear, someone you love. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger... this reading from the Letter of James, which turned up as the Reading, Wednesday Evening Prayer has been lying uneasily within me since then. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves. And it is so easy for me to deceive myself! It seems like, to me, there are two types of men (not really, but for me, right now in my life, this is how men (or women) appear to me). One is the man who appears cold and self-centered, who doesn't care much for his fellow men, who shows this by word and at times by deed, and the man who is always trying to do good, the one who appears to be lead by God at all times. Who am I? Well, the second man, of course. Right? I am, aren't I? Maybe not, not as much as I thought. This morning I was shown an act of kindness in the small exploits of three of my co-workers. One worker going out of his way to help two others dig out their car covered over by the snow from the recent storm. The person who did the helping? Why, the one who looks down on his fellow men. He went out of his way to help, just because he could. And what does this have to do with the one who appears to be lead by God at all times. A lot, because in my overblown view of myself I think I am he, lead by God. Yet this week, this Wednesday evening I failed yet again in carrying out the law in practice. When a call came to me to help a woman with problems she has, silly to me and small, but to her, life threatening issues, I found reasons and excuses not to go to her, not to reach out to her. The roads are completely snow covered. I've been at work since 5:30 this morning. Whatever. I'll be there tomorrow, right after work. There, that calmed her down. (But not really, what I didn't know until later). And something gnawed at me, that kind of gnawing that one gets when you know you didn't do something quite right, even though there were many solid reasons for not doing it. So the righteous man who is full of himself, the one 'lead by God' finds reasons for not being what has vowed to be, a Franciscan, a follower of Francis, a follower of Jesus, for crying out loud, and instead looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looks like. I was that man for two days, but God would not let me forget what I'd done. Maybe He has too much invested in me, or something. When He wants to get His point across He finds His ways. A written word or two here or there, or an example of what a person should be like, right before my eyes. He doesn't use shame, we bring that on ourselves, we know when we have wronged someone. I made up my mind this morning that I'd call L on my way home and stop over and help her with anything I could. She's very handicapped and only gets along with Helen and I, really, in the whole world. And I dismissed her in her time of need because it inconvenienced me. Unbelievable. When I talked with Helen at mid-day she said L had called, was wondering if I could stop over after work. Helen said that she already told L I would. Helen knew. When I got there I listened as she talked, told me of her problems of the last three days. She is very sick, and weak. I did what I could, and told her I'd be back tomorrow afternoon to finish what I'd started. But there won't be any finishing, not really. L will always need me, need Helen and I. There are so many L's in the world, so many sister-in-laws. And I must be there to help them, every one of them, without complaint. That is the part that I must learn, no, not learn, but to love. His commandment to Love Thy Neighbor bore into me with its full force today in all it's terrible beauty. Terrible for me, for I had to re-learn it all over again. Here it is, my Cross, I believe your following Me, am I correct? Oh, yes my Lord Jesus, you are correct. There is no way I could ever put this down, not ever again. I may fall, stumble, cry out, but Lord as I help you, please, help me.