Category Archives: trials

Valuable Pastoral Wisdom from St. James

Memory Verse

James 1:22  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Introduction

St. James begins to offer some valuable pastoral wisdom right after we have focused on dealing with trials and tribulations.

“Know this, my beloved brethren.  Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1: 19-20)  When I think about it, the pressures and stress of trials usually make me very slow to listen and faster to speak.  There used to be a psychologist friend of mine who said that anger is always the end emotion of something much deeper going on in our mind.  Sometimes it can just be a fear of losing someone or as explained by St. James, it can be the result of a trial we are going through.  These can be financial, health-related, relationship-related, work-related, family- related—the list of stressors can be unlimited in this earthly existence.

During times of trial (tension), we tend not to listen well because we are formulating in our head what we want to say while our conversation partner is trying to be heard.  Many communication problems can be traced to tension which can lead to anger, also.  St. James teaches us that as a Christian, we should be meek with a disposition that is receptive to learning as opposed to anger.  Anger  can carry with it an attitude that is demanding.

In addition, James tells us to do two things:

  1.  Put away filth and evil from your life and
  2. Welcome the word that has been planted in you.

He further warns us (just like a good pastor, does) that we must not fall into the deadly pattern of deception which is hearing the word of God but not doing it.  When we hear the word but don’t do it, we are deceiving ourselves and treating the Word as if it were powerless.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  (Hebrew 4: 12)

St. James

St. James

 

Next time:  Points to Ponder

 

 

 

 

@Home Work: 

  1. When it comes to anger, in what areas are you typically vulnerable?
  2. When talking to an acquaintance, can you tell if he/she is really listening to you?  How do you feel when you know he/she is not?
  3. Is there an area of your life that you find yourself repeatedly saying, “I really need to do something about that?”  What do you think is keeping you from doing it?
  4. How does society foster the idea that anger will achieve the desired goal in one’s life?
  5. Why are we particularly susceptible to anger when faced with trials?

 

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Answers From My Heart

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let’s Talk About It

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  What does this text say about God’s knowledge of you?

God must know me pretty well.  I always feel that even during my “Job” or “Jeremiah” moments that He has His arms wrapped around me and that as long as I cling to Him, things will be all right.  He knows my strengths and weaknesses way beyond my resume and I have come through some things that looking back seemed insurmountable challenges.  Now, I just KNOW that there is nothing that Jesus has not given me the strength to overcome–no trial or temptation is too big.

James describes sin as having a sort of gestation and maturation period.  He writes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  everybody has “nursed” sin at some point in their lives.  How do we cut off that process of gestation, birth and maturity for sin in our lives?

The easy answer to this is to avoid the occasions of sin whatever they are.  Focus on the positive aspects of being a Catholic–the Mass, the Eucharist and especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Keeps the venial from becoming the mortal.

James tell us if we lack wisdom, “ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”  What resources has God freely handed us by which we can gain wisdom?  How might we make those resources a part of our lives?  What obstacles stand in the way of gaining that wisdom?  How might they be overcome?

(See the last answer.)  Also, He has given us His Word to read and study to get to know Him.  Time is one of my biggest obstacles.  Someone asked a question last week on FB.  Do we spend more time on the computer than with God?  If we do then our priorities are really messed up.  That is one of the reasons I have been trying to limit my social media time to an hour each day. 

James tells us, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  However, our lives are in continual states of change.  How do we take the “heavenly perspective” and see our constantly changing lives through the eyes of Him Who does not change?

It seems that my perspective has become more “heavenly” the older that I have gotten.  I judge everything now by will it get me to heaven or not.  This can drive some people crazy; especially those in my life who do not have the same outlook.  This question, though, can make decisions very easy to make.

When Israel conquered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Canaanites still remained in the land.  God said in Judges 2: 21-23 that He did not drive out all the Canaanites but left some in the land that He might test Israel, whether they would walk in the ways of the Lord.  With this in mind, and in light of your current trials, what might God be trying to do in your life in terms of walking in His ways?

I think I am tested a lot because of my Catholicism.  I work with all Protestants and find myself (not defending) but explaining things to people in a way that I hope will be “salt and light” to them.  Also, many of my children have fallen away from the Church that they were baptized in and while some of them continue to go to a church, it is not the same.  This and my granddaughter wanting to get involved with occult practices like crystal reading are my two main trials right now.  I am trying to live an authentic Catholic life as an example; however it is hard to do that when they live so far away from us.   I’m not sure what God is trying to do in my life over this; but I’m determined to walk in His ways to holiness.

So, now, what about you?  Do you have any comments?  I’d love to hear from you.

St. James

St. James

Next Time:  James–Study Two

@HomeWork:  During our study of James 1: 1-8 what did you learn that you have to “sweep” out of your life” (Spring Cleaning)  What do you think you should add? (New Additions)

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Let’s Talk About James 1: 1-8 & other stuff

Today I am going to put out a few questions based upon what we have been studying so far in the hope that you will consider them.  I would love it if you would write some comments about some of the questions.  I will answer one or two on Friday and then we will be ready to start Study 2 (James 1: 19-27) on Monday.  Notice that we are not studying these verses in the order written.

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let’s Talk About It

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful and He will not let you be twmpted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  What does this text say about God’s knowledge of you?

James describes sin as having a sort of gestation and maturation period.  He writes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  everybody has “nursed” sin at some point in their lives.  How do we cut off that process of gestation, birth and maturity for sin in our lives?

James tell us if we lack wisdom, “ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”  What resources has God freely handed us by which we can gain wisdom?  How might we make those resources a part of our lives?  What obstacles stand in the way of gaining that wisdom?  How might they be overcome?

James tells us, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom thee is no variation or shadow due to change.”  However, our lives are in continual states of change.  How do we take the “heavenly perspective” and see our constantly changing lives through the eyes of Him Who does not change?

When Israel conquered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Canaanites still remained in the land.  God said in Judges 2: 21-23 that He did not drive out all the Canaanites but left some in the land that He might test Israel, whether they would walk in the ways of the Lord.  With this in mind, and in light of your current trials, what might God be trying to do in your life in terms of walking in His ways?

St. James

St. James

Next Time:  Spring Cleaning and New Additions.

@HomeWork:  Please try to answer at least one of the questions for yourself.  & share if you are so moved!

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Failing to “Count It All Joy”

On Wednesday of last week, we faced a “trial” in our house and I failed St. James miserably.  When we were gone from the house for an hour, the tank on the toilet overflowed and we came home to two inches of water on the bathroom floor that had also seeped under the door of our bedroom soaking about a 7 square foot area of our wall to wall carpeting.  We had to rent a wet-vac and an industrial fan to clean and dry up the mess.

I couldn’t bring myself to “count it all joy.”  In fact, I’m sure that some choice words left my mouth. (Pardon my French, as my daughter would say.)  And, even while I was posting Points to Ponder, I didn’t see the irony of my feelings of upset and disgust and what I was writing.  When I went to work the next day, my friends told me that studying the Epistle of James was a surefire way to bring “trial and temptation” into my life.  Sort of like, asking God for patience and He sends opportunities to practice it.  Well, I failed the first test; but now I’m on the lookout as we continue.  Have any of you any similar stories in the past week or two to share?

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Rome to Home

“The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly with the words of this strange paradox:  the springs of divine power gust forth precisely in the midst of human weakness.  Those who share in the suffering of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s Redemption, and can share this treasure with others.  ” (Salvifici doloris, 27). Pope John Paul II

Catechism Connection

CCC 2846-2849  “And Lead Us Not Into Temptation”  The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death.   The Holy Spirit constantly awakens us to keep watch.  (read some more of this on your own.  These are my two favorite nuggets.

CCC 45  Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness.  “When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.”  (St. Augustine, Conf. 10,28,39 PL 32, 795)

CCC 769  The Church and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials.  (read all of this on your own.)

CCC 1742  Freedom and grace  “.  . . the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials. . .”

Family Devotions

The best prayer of all when facing trials and temptations is the Rosary.  No matter where we are in life, we can find ourselves in the Holy Mysteries of the Rosary as they follow the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother.  During trials, walk with Jesus and draw on the strength of your Mother interceding for you.  What ever we are going through, remember, the Rosary “beats the rhythm of human life.”

St. James

St. James

 

Next time:  Let’s talk about it.

@Home Work:  The word dokimion is used in 1:3 for the process of “testing.”  This same word is used for sterling coins that are “genuine” or “without alloy.”  The aim of a trial is to purge us of all impurities so that we become Christlike.  Looking at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26: 36-46), and using Him as our example, what can we learn from Jesus about our wills in the midst of a trial?

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James 1: 1-8 Points to Ponder: Redemptive Suffering and Trials and Temptations

(If we were “getting together” for this Bible Study, the guide says that we should read the Points to Ponder out loud and together.  So I have put it here in its entirety for you to read and reflect upon.  I also will keep repeating the Memory Verse until the end of Study One, so that we can memorize it.  God bless you!)

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

What is the Catholic Teaching on Redemptive Suffering?

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pgs. 2-3)

“In coming to grips with suffering, a Catholic should bear in mind both James 1:2 (“count it all ;joy, my brethren when you meet various trials”) and verse 17 (“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”)  Because we have this eternal Father, we can have an eternal perspective that arises from the eternal goal that awaits us.  That alone not only makes sense out of our suffering, it turns our sufferings into something with redemptive power.  That is absolutely novel and revolutionary in human history!  Nothing else before or after Christianity has really grasped that suffering can be redemptive.  To be sure, the acorn is already present in pre-Christian Judaism and is starting to sprout, but only really takes root and bears fruit in the Tree upon which Christ hung.  The audience to which James wrote was facing two tendencies in pagan thought.  One the one hand was Stoicism, which said ‘Keep a stiff upper lip, bear suffering with a straight face’ but which never thought for a moment to ‘count it all joy.’  On the other had, another pagan school of thought was Platonism which considered the body as a sort of prison for the soul and so could, at times, ‘rejoice’ at the suffering of the body because it was a kind of death knell for the jailer.  Both pagan thought systems had a germ of truth, but both were mixed with tremendous error as well.  The Stoic was right to say we have to bear it, but he couldn’t explain why we could possibly count it joy.  The Platonist was right to look upon the body as a temporary dwelling, but wrong to think the goal of life was to become disembodied.  He did not know about the Resurrection.  And so he thought the body was bad, whereas, in reality, it is the second-highest good.  That is why we are called, like Jesus, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12: 1).  There is no point to offering garbage as sacrifice, only that which is best.  And you offer that which is best to show there is One you prefer even more.

So how do we offer our suffering to God?  In different ways.  If we’re suffering illness, we recognize our own human affliction and weakness. Certainly, we seek treatment, but in the meantime we grow in patience through endurance, knowing that even these suffering can be united with Jesus on the cross.   If sufferings are due to persecution for righteousness’ sake, that’s pure gold without any dross.  That is, we can can thank God that he has honored us to share in Christ’s own sufferings.  On the other hand, if our suffering is due to punishment for sin, even those can be united to Christ as we see the Good Thief crucified with Jesus did with his sufferings.  In addition, it should be noted that some of the most intense forms of suffering are not physical but spiritual.  James, for instance, gives no hint that he’s speaking to a persecuted church.  Rather, he addresses his consolations to poor Christians being exploited by the rich (many of whom appear to be Christian themselves).  Also, there is the intense suffering, not of dying ourselves, but watching a loved one die as Mary had to watch Christ die.  To bear such suffering, or to bear the betrayal of friends whom we trusted as Jesus bore betrayal and abandonment by his disciples is to be very close to the Spirit of Christ.  The bottom line is:  there is no realm of human suffering outside of Christ.  Some forms of suffering are most perfectly Christlike, but every form of suffering is, in some way, able to draw us closer to Christ.”

Trials and Temptations

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pg. 3)

“Are trials from God and temptations from concupiscence?  To answer that, we need to know what is ‘concupiscence.’  The CCC (para 1264) tells us that, though baptism removes original sin, nonetheless ‘certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, the tinder for sin (fomes peccati); since concupiscence is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.  [Council of Trent (1546): DS 1515.]  We may say that trials are from God and temptations are from concupiscence.

Interestingly, the same word in Greek (peirasmos) is used for both ‘trial’ and ‘temptation.’ A trial is an external test.  A temptation is an internal test.  The same word is used in James 1:2 and then again in James 1: 12-13.  We have to recognize the different meanings from the context.  In verse 2, we are told that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.  So it involves endurance, perseverance, patience and courage.  It’s like a muscle workout for the soul, making healthy muscles even stronger.  In contrast, the internal test we undergo due to our own weakness is what is described in verses 12 and 13.  James relates this passage back to verse 2 and says, ‘Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.’  But then he goes on in verse 13 to say, ‘let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.’  So, on one hand, we are exalted by trial yet humbled by temptation.  Whenever these disordered desires arise in our hearts, we should take a good long look in the mirror (described by James as the ‘perfect law of liberty’ in verses 23-25) and repent.  So, in temptation, we endure suffering, not like athletes at the gym, but as sick people going through physical therapy.  Yet both have their place in God’s plan to do us good.”

St. James

St. James

Next time:  Rome to Home, The CCC Connection, and Family Devotions

@Home Work:  How can we put James 1: 1-8 in practice in our lives?

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