Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No One Should Say, "I Am Being Tempted By God". He Himself Tempts No One.

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
James 1:12-18
Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven
he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted
when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity
it gives birth to death.

Do not be deceived,
my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration
or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth
by the word of truth
that we may be a kind
of first fruits of his creatures.
A lovely passage from James today.

It is clear that the Christians James is writing to are under strong pressures in the living of their faith. As in our own day, there were the pulls of a society which set great store by material wealth, social status and influence. In addition, there were the difficulties of living in a society where one’s Christian faith could bring harassment and persecution. At times, it would seem much easier to abandon it and follow the crowd.

“Blessed” are those who can persevere in the face of such testing. It is the “blessedness” that Jesus spoke about in the Beatitudes. James praises those who come triumphantly through such times of trial and testing. They will receive “the crown of life” that God promises to those who remain faithful to him. The “crown” (stephanos, stefanos - from which the name ‘Stephen’ comes) was the term for the wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader. (One often sees pictures of Julius Caesar wearing such a wreath.) In the Second Letter to Timothy, Paul is quoted as being confident of getting such a crown - “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:6-7, see also 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10).

However, James reminds us that no one should ever think that these tests or temptations come directly from God. God can never be the source of an urge to do or say what is evil and wrong.

God himself, of course, cannot be tempted. In a God who is infinite Goodness, there is nothing that could entice him as more desirable than what he already is and has. Nor does he tempt anyone in the sense of leading a person to do what is morally evil. Again because God is all Goodness such a situation is impossible. Of course, we may find ourselves in situations where our faith and integrity are challenged. God does not prevent such situations arising. But, if we fail, it is the result of our own choice. This is the clear message of the creation story in Genesis. The Fall was due solely to the choice made by the Man and his wife. God is all good and the source only of what is good.

All our temptations originate in ourselves, in the various passions that drive us. The passage mentions three stages - desire, sin and death. These we see in the sin of the first woman and her husband. We see the same in David’s infatuation with Bathsheba (cf. Friday of Week 3 in Ordinary Time). This is something we have all experienced in some form.

On the contrary, every good thing we experience comes directly from the “Father of lights”, the Father who presides over the whole universe with its myriads of stars and constellations. And, unlike them, he never suffers change or eclipse. He is above all a creating God.

“He willed to give us birth by the word of truth”, that is, literally “he deliberately brought us forth by a word of truth”. The ‘word of truth’ is everything God has revealed to the human race; it is the supreme Law. For us now, the word of Truth is the Gospel, the Way that Jesus the Son of God proclaimed.

And we are to be the “first fruits” of his creatures. Just as the first sheaf of the harvest was an indication that the whole harvest would eventually follow, so the early Christians were an indication that a great number of people would eventually be born again. This is our great responsibility towards the world around us.

It is through the «Logos tou Theou» , the Word of God,  that the Creator brings forth everything that has been made and we human beings are in a special category. For we are made in his likeness, in our ability to love and to know, in our ability to co-create with him. So today, let us look at the sources of evil which are in us and see where they have been leading us.

At the same time, let us also count our blessings, become aware of the wonderful gifts that God has given and continues to give us every single day. Let us also remember our responsibility to help in the building of the Kingdom, making this world a better place for all.

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Psalm 94
Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
Blessed the man whom you instruct, O LORD,
whom by your law you teach,
Giving him rest from evil days.
Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.
Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
When I say, “My foot is slipping,”
your mercy, O LORD, sustains me;
When cares abound within me,
your comfort gladdens my soul.
Blessed the man you instruct, O Lord.
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Mark 8:14-21
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude
that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see,
ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves
for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full
of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves
for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments
did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them,
“Do you still not understand?”
Yesterday we saw the blindness of the Pharisees in asking Jesus to give some sign of his authority from God. Today we see the blindness of Jesus’ own disciples. This, of course, is pointing to our blindness in not recognising the clear presence of God in our own lives.

The disciples are travelling across the lake in the boat. They had forgotten to bring food with them and there was only one loaf between them all. As they cross the lake, Jesus is talking to them. “Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” For the Jews yeast was a corrupting agent because it caused fermentation. That was why at the Pasch they ate unleavened, incorrupt, bread. And Paul tells the Corinthians: “Get rid of all the old yeast, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Jesus is telling his disciples to avoid two opposing kinds of corruption. That of the Pharisees which is based on narrow-minded and intolerant legalism and that of Herod, which is based on amoral and hedonistic pleasure-seeking.

However, the disciples are not really listening to their Master. They latch on to the word “yeast” and link it with their present obsession - not enough bread. Their lunch is the only thing on their minds. Jesus, of course, knows what is going in their minds.

He scolds them: “You are worried about having no bread? Do you not understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the 5,000, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Twelve, they answer. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many baskets of leftovers did you collect?” “Seven.” “And you still do not understand?”

Five loaves for 5,000 with 12 baskets over, seven loaves for 4,000 with seven baskets over, and they, a mere dozen people, are worried about being short of food when Jesus is with them?

Mark tends to be very hard on the disciples. They cannot see, they cannot hear, they fail to understand what is happening before their very eyes. But they are learning gradually, as we shall see. Of course, Mark is firing his shots not at the disciples but at you and me. How much faith have we got in God’s care for us? Can we hear, can we see? Are we also without understanding?

Living Bread
The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

The leaven of Herod led to the murder of John the Baptist. The leaven of the Pharisees will lead to the murder of Christ. Both types of leaven caused the spilling of innocent blood, which cries out to God. These leavens are a danger to the innocent victims, the souls of the perpetrators, and society: definitely something to be wary of.

The Pharisees and Herod seem to have wanted special signs just for themselves, which they could test and, if satisfied, proclaim by their own authority, when they judged the time to be right, conserving or preferably enhancing their own power and privileges. By insisting that the proclamation of the Messiah had to be in their own gift, they actually made themselves equal to God (the Pharisees' charge against Jesus). This attitude led to wars that were ultimately disastrous for the Jews.

Jesus is the Messiah proclaimed by His own unique authority, who guides our feet into the way of peace. There is there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.