Dt 4:2
James 1:27
You shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it.
… Keep oneself unstained by the world.
A warning that has NEVER been listened to! Let us go back to the book of Genesis for a moment. When Eve was confronted by the serpent regarding the forbidden fruit, she overstated what God said. God’s instructions were ‘do not to eat of that fruit’. When Eve confronted the serpent, she said that God said she could not eat it nor touch it. She added to the commandment of God, and at that moment Satan knew he had her.
That is what all our readings this weekend point to as a problem. Granted, they are looking at it in different ways, but this is all part of the same problem. While we do not hear from St. Paul this weekend, he is very clear in many of his writings that we are not to be trapped by holding onto a legal structure that limits our ability to serve God freely.
I think this is how the problem developed: When there were things commanded by God to avoid, there was an inclination to surround the basic points God was making with human laws so that you would not run the risk of violating God’s laws. Then, in the eyes of the people these human laws that were surrounding the law of God became God’s laws. So to protect themselves from those laws, they created another set of laws surrounding these. This kept adding to a warped sense of what it meant to follow God’s laws.
This is what made it so hard for people to follow what God instructed them to do. As a result, we have Moses saying that they are not to add or subtract from the commands of God. St. Paul warns in his letter to the Romans that the law does not help us. I think he says that because it is… distorted by so many other layers beyond what God intended.
Jesus issues this same kind of warning in many different places throughout the Gospels. Yet he also calls us to the simplicity of holiness. Please note that especially: the simplicity of holiness.
St. James concludes with the line I quoted above from our reading. But it is a conclusion that comes from his understanding that we must be active in our Christian life. He says we must be “doers of the word.” This also means not being conformed to the world. It means not giving in to some of the things that the world says is okay. It means, sometimes, that we must be separate – and be willing to be seen as separate– from the rest of the world.
This is why Moses also said “‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’” Unfortunately, I do not believe our country can now claim that phrase of Moses of being a great nation. The morality of our country, the permissions given to all kinds of perversions, makes it clear to me that we cannot claim to be very wise or intelligent as a nation.
The only way I see that changing is if the church wakes up to who she is in Christ and issues a call to holiness to our world in a way that the world can finally embrace it. This means we need to break through the foolishness and the spiritual bondage that our nation is in.
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the tragedy of our day. It is also the challenge of the church today. We need to become missionaries here in our own land. How? We need to change our focus.
What is it that holds you to the church right now? Why do you want to come to worship God? What is it about coming to mass that keeps you attracted? These are questions that need to be answered by each one of us. And we need to be ready to answer these kinds of questions to people who do not understand them. It is not that they do not understand our answers, they do not even understand our questions.
The seduction of the world has been so severe that people who are not following Christ do not even understand the problems they are in. I believe the only way we can overcome this is if we as members of the church, believing active members of the church, find a way to talk to the world around us about the importance of our faith. Let me repeat those three questions I just asked. What is it that holds you to the church right now? Why do you want to come to worship God? What is it about coming to mass that keeps you attracted?
That is your homework for this week. Live with those questions. They will do two things for you: first, it will give you a way to speak to those who no longer go to church in a way that, God willing, will attract them; second, and this is more important, it will give you a way to “to keep oneself unstained by the world,” as St. James said.
This weekend has been the first national, o más bien internacional, conference for the Mater Filius movement. Mater Filius is a program that answers the call of the gospel to care for the least. It is housed locally here at Saints Peter and Paul convent. It is a home for women in crisis pregnancies. This movement started in Mexico City. Then, in answer to prayers, it began here in Omaha and has spread to Miami, Cincinnati, and Colorado Springs here in the United States and also in El Salvador, Chile, and Columbia. And there are negotiations for homes in France, Spain, and India. [¿Es Verdad? ¿Hay más? Are there more?] So it is an attempt – a successful one – to show these vulnerable women and children the simple truth of the Gospel.
[Will all of those involved in Mater Filius please stand at this time. – Todos los que participan en Mater Filius por favor estarán de pie en este momento. – I want to thank you for joining us this weekend and I want to encourage you in your work for some of the most vulnerable members of the kingdom of God. You are “doers of the word” as St. James said. And, under the patronage of our Lady, you are giving people a chance to see holiness in action. May God continue to bring your good work to a holy conclusion.]