Here is the reflection:
In the Gospel the disciples are arguing who is the best.
Christ tells them to be first they must be last. They must be a servant to all. He then embraces a child and tells them to do the same and they will receive him and the One who sent him.
The second reading from St. James matches this perfectly in the first line "jealousy and self-ambition." We see that even the disciples are struggling with these very issues. The three disciples whom Jesus took up to the Mountain on the Transfiguration were St. Peter, St. James and St. John. The three disciples whom Jesus asked to come with him were St. Peter, St. James and St. John. St. James is writing from experience here. He is writing, it seems, from a very intimate place, a place where he himself has struggled with for a very long time.
St. James says that jealousy and self-ambition are not from God. But if something is from God it is "first of all pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy," it has consistency and sincerity.
Christ was and is consistent and sincere. He showed consistency and sincerity when told them to receive the child and reminded them the importance of taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. The children. I am that child whom Christ embraces. Left to MY own devices and doing things MY way I will be unhappy and self destructive. That is the way it is for me. Since I realized my self destructive tendencies, I wished that I was not that way. But that is where I find Jesus. He is inside my deepest and darkest place repairing my damaged soul with His Love. IN my heart He paints "You are not alone. I will be with you until the end of time. Trust in Me." He reminds the disciples, by embracing others, that HE is in otHErs. "When you receive one of these little ones you received me and the One who sent me."
"Where do wars and conflicts come from?" Are they from God?
St. James tells me no. God is Unity and Oneness not division and separation. Diablos or Satan is that which divides. In the Hindu religion that which creates separation is Maya which means illusion. Maya is that which pretends there is not unity when in fact it is there. When I choose to go against the will of God in my life I choose to believe in the illusion of Maya or the Lies of Satan, because illusions are just that - lies. We see something which is not really there.
St. James then goes on to say: "Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war." He tells me that because of my passions or feelings I am in conflict with others. "That person makes me angry... I want that what they have because I want it (a feeling of entitlement that I am entitled to something without working for it.) I feel bad therefore I am a bad person. If I put someone else down I will feel better ( I am upset because I do not posses good self-esteem so I will try to take someone else's who seems that they are in a better disposition.) If I could just feel better then I would be better." This sort of thinking leads me to commit actions which would make me feel better. At one point for me it was drinking, or sex, at other points it was making someone feel bad so I could feel better. I would and will sometimes live in the lie that "if only I could have (blank) things would be different."
If only so-and-so liked me then I could be happy...
If only I had more money then I could be happy...
If only I had that job then I would be happy...
If only I was in shape then I would be happy...
If only... If only ... If only I would stop thinking "if only" then I would actually be happy.
My feelings are not a thermometer for my self-value.
Another interesting insight that St. James shares with me is that I do not possess something because I do not ask for it. When I do ask for it I do not receive it because my intentions are wrong and I would spend it on my need to feel better.
His comment on war reminds me of people who are "have-nots" want something that the "haves" have and war is started. Growing up for me it was a comic book I stole, or money, or candy, now I try to steal people’s self-respect and dignity. I cannot help but think about how this plays out on an international level with labor, human trafficking, oil, natural resources, land, food, medical supplies etc.
And even if I do receive what I ask for will I really use it for the great glory of God or the gods? Will I place what I have been given at the altar of Christ or the altar of myself or the gods I make in my life? What are my intentions?
St. James is writing from a personal experience. I wonder if St. James ever thought looking back now, "what did it really matter who was the best?" I wonder if St. James ever thought "maybe there is no best. If God already loves me and is in love with me fully and infinitely then maybe there is no best?"
I know from Christ's own words that my judgment will be on my own life, on my own soul. So God will not judge me on a curve. So in reality in our Christian tradition Christianity is not a competition. Christianity is not a competition. Christianity is not a competition. Christ tells me the measure which I judge others I judge myself. He does not say that the standards of others will be what you will be judged by. In essence competition is the way of the world and is not of God. Competition is "thinking not as God does but as human beings do. (Mark 8:30)" If Christ tells me that we are born in the world but are not of it, then we should leave their "values" behind.
I was instilled as a little child that I should be the best I can be. Fine. That I must be the best. Okay. That I be the best by stepping on the backs of others. Not fine. "First is best and second is the worse." "Good enough is never good enough." I grew up with images of the "cool guys" (cool=successful) gets the pretty girl. I was put in races during school. Made to feel bad when I didn't come in first and when I did win it was fleeting. My self-esteem and self-value became intrinsically linked with other people. Though I would never vocalize this, what I was really thinking was: I have less self-value because I cannot run as fast as... I do not make as much money as... I am not as smart as... I am not as good looking as... I am not as popular as... I am not as holy as...
St. James causes me to discern: is this competition from God? Well what is his measuring stick for things that are from God? Does me being obsessive about defeating my opponent, does this bring about peace? Is attacking myself because I am not good enough, is this gentle? The way I beat myself up for losing, is this full of mercy?
God gave me a grace in meeting the Jesuits. Anthony De Milo SJ has a great line:
You do not have to change for God to love you.
What a powerful message! It is something I just sit with in prayer. Anthony De Milo says to just sit with it like a seed and let it grow. I cannot force growth. I cannot pull a tree out of a seed. Since sitting with this saying a garden has flourished of a deeper understanding of God's love for me. I have learned that I change so that I prove to myself that I love myself. Changing for someone else is stupid and pointless. But changing for myself only has value. I want to change so I can be more open to God's grace, to my relationship with God.
St. James speaks from experience. He speaks to me from the time he was rebuked by Jesus for thinking the way human beings do and not the way God does. St. James, by his example, tells me not to make his mistake of comparing myself to others because this breeds jealousy and self-ambition...
Have a Great Halloween don't get too Mad this weekend!