Jas 1:12-18; Ps 94:12-15,18,19; Mk 8:14-21
With the psalms we pray, “Sustain me oh LORD, as you have promised, that I may live and disappoint me not in my hope.” This is an expansion upon today’s responsorial psalm, “Your mercy, O LORD, sustains me.” When we pray the psalms we learn that true blessedness, real sanctity, and accessible holiness is that the LORD instructs us by his law. Divine revelation reinforces natural law. As Saint Thomas taught the church, “grace builds upon nature.” It seems that because of our sin we could not listen to the hidden guidance left for us in creation. Over the generations we became deaf to the natural law. However, the LORD did not abandon us to our self-centered and sinful ways. He revealed his Torah on Mount Sinai. The LORD taught us about the need for boundaries and provided them for us. Adonai taught us by his Commands, and he gave us rest from evil days. The LORD did not cast off his people, nor abandon his inheritance. Judgment was again with justice, and the upright of heart followed in his ways. Even in moments when we found ourselves slipping, the LORD again reveals his mercy. When we are honest enough to pray, “My foot is slipping!” We can rely upon the mercy of the LORD because he sustains us. Even when we are overwhelmed with the details of life, even when cares abound within us, his comfort gladdens our souls. This wisdom found in the Psalms is the same wisdom we hear from the Apostle James. This is the same wisdom the Lord Jesus is trying to teach us in today’s gospel. He alone nourishes our hearts. Without his wisdom we cannot make it through to the end.
From the days of the Apostles we have been praying, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The LORD does not lead us into temptation. This is the clear instruction of the Saint James. In his permissive will the LORD allows us to experience temptation, but he does not tempt us. Just as the Father allowed the evil one to tempt the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, so too, we experience temptation. Again, we discover the meaning of true blessedness. We are blessed when we persevere in holiness. It is when we are proven, like the Lord Jesus was proven, that we receive the crown of life—promised to us by the One Who First Loved Us. It was the will of the Father that the Lord Jesus fulfilled in his forty day fast. He was lead into the desert by the Holy Spirit, and in this lonely place the Lord Jesus resisted the tempter by prayer and fasting. As the gospel accounts instruct us, the Lord Jesus spoke the Word of revelation to the words of temptation. He uses Scripture to defeat the tempter. In his humanity the Lord Jesus struggled with the temptation to let natural desires for food, for power, and for importance. It is from our hearts, broken by sin, that these temptations arise. We do not need an angel of darkness to appear and tempt us. We have these desires within our own hearts. Such desires conceive and give birth to sin, and when sin grows in our lives it gives birth to death. Saint James continues to instruct us in the ways of holiness. We are not the source of our own goodness. Every good and perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights. The light of his wisdom is faithful and incarnate in Christ. Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us birth by the Word of Truth so that we discover who we really are: the first-fruits of the New Creation. This is our true blessedness. This is the delight of holiness. This is what it means to be a saint.
The forgetfulness of the disciples is a teachable moment for the Lord Jesus who instructs them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” However, judging from their response the failed the test. Yet this does not discourage the Divine Teacher. The Lord Jesus continues his questioning to lead them into the heart of the matter. The Lord Jesus wants to break open their hard hearts. He wants remove the scales from their eyes. He wants to unblock their ears. All that he has done for so many outside the circle of his disciples, he now wants to do within that first community of believers. The Lord Jesus continues to instruct the fellowship of faith during every mass. While we continue to be nourished by the fragments at every Eucharist, do we still not understand? When will we learn to listen to every word that comes from the mouth of God? When will we learn to be nourished by his wisdom? Then, and only then, will we rest from evil days. Then, and only then, will we be truly blessed.