The New Testament Letter of James is filled with practical advice for disciples of the Lord Jesus. This advice is not without its severity. The Letter of James takes as a given that disciples of the Lord Jesus are willing to change their lives and make the necessary sacrifices to be authentic and faithful witnesses of Christ in the Church and in the world.
Today’ excerpt from the Letter of James is about wealth, and how a preoccupation with wealth can lead to the elevation of money to an idol, and once this happens, we are in great peril. The capital sin of the Bible of idolatry and it is our desires that create the idols that we worship. The desire for wealth, pleasure, power and honors is can become particularly pernicious.
The Letter of James insists that preoccupation with wealth leads not only to idolatry, but also, inevitably, to cruelty, and if in our pursuit of wealth we deprive people of their dignity, that we will not evade divine justice.
The worldliness of our culture insists that wealth exists to serve our own ego-driven desires, but this is not what the Gospel reveals. The Gospel reveals that wealth is to be placed in service to Christ, to human dignity, to relieve the sufferings of the needy and to enhance, rather than to degrade, human dignity. Higher than the value of humanity as a producer and consumer of wealth is the identity of all people as the children of God.
Christ employs hyperbole today so as to emphasize the necessity of conversion and repentance. Conversion and repentance are not merely spiritual options, or meant only for the most notorious of sinners, but they are necessities for all disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Our sins may not be all that dramatic, but whatever they our sins are, they hold us back, prevent us from flourishing in the gifts that Christ offers to his disciples.
Christ does not simply affirm us as we are, but insists that we change, this change entails repentance, seeking forgiveness for what we have done and failed to do and then extending to others the mercy that we have received.
God in Christ proves himself to be the great giver of another chance. But we must take that chance and live differently. If we are unwilling to do that the consequences we suffer and the consequences we impose on ourselves.
God in Christ offers us another way, a different way. God in Christ offers us another chance- but we must be willing to take the chance he offers.
Concretely, the chance that God in Christ offers is given to us in the great sacrament of his mercy- the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament Christ forgives us and offers to us what we so often need the most- a fresh start, a new beginning, the best of all possible second chances.