If you have been ignoring the epistle of St. James in your biblical reading, well, you are missing out on one of the most bluntly convicting letters in the bible. James has no time to suffer a fool. This week's passage is no exception. Sometimes it is tempting to think that religion is about following a set of rules. As if there is a prize for meeting some minimum standard of participation. Unfortunately, that mindset is rampant in the pews. St. James cuts that idea off right at the knees.
No, according to St. James, we are supposed to do a lot more than just show up. Instead, we are supposed to, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.” (James 7:21) Meaning, in humility, we need to accept Jesus into our lives. The humility is crucial. If you don’t think you need a savior, you can’t be saved. But, James makes it clear that accepting the word, as important as it is, is not enough. He goes on, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 7:22)
Not only is the believer called to accept Christ, but he is also supposed to live Christ. We are supposed to go out to live what we have received. God is love. We are called to live out love. God is truth. We are called to live out the truth. John’s letter tells us that “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us” (John 4:10) We are called to love those who don’t love us. Being a Christ follower is more than showing up a minimum number of times. It is accepting the Word, Jesus Christ, into your life, for your salvation, and living in the presence of Christ for the salvation of others. We are called to be doers of the word.
In case there is any lingering doubt, this week's reading for James concludes,
So what's the takeaway? If you want to be good Catholic, you have to do more than just show up (although showing up is still important.) You need to humbly accept the Word, Jesus Christ. You need to admit that you need a savior, and you need to give Jesus permission to be your savior. But it doesn’t end there. James makes it clear that having received the Word, we are called to live the Word. We are supposed to live in Christ, like Christ. If you need to check yourself to see how you are doing, read James 7:27 again and ask yourself, “when was the last time I did something to help people in need? When do I give to those who have nothing to offer me back?" Ask yourself, "am I more like everyone else I run into, or more like Jesus?"
If there was ever any doubt, I think the recent scandals in the Church have made it crystal clear, that this is an age in which Saints are needed. This is an age hungry for passionate men and women, living in Christ, and living out Christ. So, get to it. You were not meant for ordinary lives. You were born into Him to live in Him, like Him.