Daily Reflection – May 18, 2016
Wednesday 18 May 2016
First Reading: James 4:13-17
Happy the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs
Psalm 48(49):2-3, 6-11
Second Reading: Romans 8:8-17
Gospel Reading: Mark 9:38-40
Today’s Saint: St John I, Pope and Martyr
John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.”
If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that. (James 4:15)
Three churchgoers heard this passage from James 4 read at Mass. The first thought, “Well, if I’m only supposed to do God’s will, I suppose I should pray more so that I can discover what he wants of me.” So he stayed kneeling at the end of Mass until he felt God might be happy for him to stand up and walk out. Then, outside the church, he prayed until he felt it was okay to drive home, and so on for the rest of the day.
The second spent the rest of her day worried that God would suddenly decide that her time was up, that she would no longer “live to do this or that.”
The third fared no better. He spent the day lounging in his armchair instead of going on that lunch date with his wife and attending the parish council meeting he had planned for that day. “I guess that’s what it looks like to trust all those things to God, right?” he thought.
It’s easy to laugh at these extreme examples of misunderstanding James’ words. We assume that he is addressing an attitude of presumptuousness—some of his readers seemed to be making plans “doing this or that” without paying attention to the spiritual ramifications of their actions. We know that God doesn’t want us to be super spiritual or fearful or apathetic—but how should we react to this passage?
Perhaps it’s helpful to look at the sentence in reverse: we live to do this or that because the Lord wills it. This should reframe the outcome. Thinking this way reminds you that every moment of your life is a gift, held in place by God, and the right response is to be thankful. The remedy for presumptuousness is not the fear that you’ll unwittingly disappoint the Lord. It’s humility and gratitude.
Let gratitude take root in your heart today. Give thanks for the challenges that God has allowed you to go through. They have helped make you who you are. Give thanks too for the present moment, which is also filled with God’s presence. And give thanks for a future you can be hopeful about, because your heavenly Father holds your whole life—including your future—in his hands!
“Lord, thank you for the generosity of your will.”