Both of the readings for mass today have a lot to do with wisdom. Saint James writes that genuine wisdom is demonstrated by how we live our lives. His words almost sound like they were written in modern times. He talks about selfish ambition, boasting and being false to the truth. Doesn’t this sound a lot like modern people who have important careers, that pursue a promotion or to make more money, through any means possible? Even to the point of compromising their principles to do so? These type of business men and women are usually highly intelligent and very well educated and seem very successful on the surface of things, and yet they hurt a lot of people on their climb to the top, and that sometimes includes their own family. Workers in a corporate environment often get jealous too, over a coworker’s promotion.
Saint James has a warning about this, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” Harsh words. How many of us would have the courage to say them? We are often afraid of being viewed as not a good Christian, if we have to address a negative situation, but Saint James spoke the truth in charity.
These verses in scripture from the Letter of Saint James ends by explaining what genuine wisdom is like. He said, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Genuine wisdom doesn’t come from within ourselves, it comes as a gift from God. Those who maintain a close relationship with the Lord, through a regular prayer life and frequenting the sacraments, are a little more likely to be given the gift of true wisdom. Genuine wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age, or through an education, but is given to us through an act of grace.
If you skim through the lengthy gospel today, you will find out that Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit. His symptoms actually sound a lot like epilepsy in our modern times. Grand Mal seizures. Back then, the people of that time may not have understood what it was, and simply called this condition an unclean spirit.
The thing to make careful note of in today’s gospel, is how Jesus proceeded to address the situation when the crowd and the father first approached him. Jesus didn’t rush over and cure the young man at once. The very first thing that Jesus did, was to question his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus is a wise man, even if he is God’s own son. He gathered all of the facts first, before he acted.
What is really awesome about today’s gospel though, is Jesus’ response to the father’s request when he asked him, “But, if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” A little bit of Jesus’ true personality reveals itself when he responded, “If you can! Everything is possible to the one who has faith.” It’s like he was completely reassuring this man, that there was indeed something that could be done to help his son. He sounds almost like he is teasing the father.
What happens next is a common thread that runs through many of Christ’s miracles. Jesus asked Martha if she believed he had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, and he asked the two blind men if they believed he had the power to cure them as well. There are many other stories in which Christ asked the person first, if they believed in him before he performed a miracle. Faith was a very important part of the healing process and at the foundation of the miracle Christ performed. In today’s gospel, the father responded to Jesus by saying, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Another thing Jesus did that was pretty common with the other miracles, is that he performed the miracle for the benefit of the person who received the healing, but the miracle was also for the benefit of the community. This was so that the people in the community would also come to believe in him. Jesus healed this young man in front of the crowd that had gathered around him that day. He didn’t take the young man aside to heal him, but did so right in front of everyone, that they might know that the son of God was in their midst.
The gospel ends with the disciples’ inquiring mind. They want to know, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” Jesus responded that, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” That is enough inspiration and food for thought for the rest of the day. Wisdom is given through prayer. Some situations are so complicated that even the most intelligent people can’t solve them, but they can be solved or better dealt with, through the help of God’s grace. Wisdom is given through grace. We remain open to God’s grace through frequenting the sacraments and growing closer to God through a regular prayer life. Prayer is a type of friendship we enter into with God. His gifts of grace and wisdom are given to those who love Him.
Daily Mass Readings:
Jas: 3: 13-18 / Ps 19: 8, 9, 10, 15 / Mk 9: 14-29