“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. for if anyone is a hearer of the word and ot a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
What James is talking about here is “spiritual maturity.” It is what is necessary to prepare us for the coming of Christ at our own deaths, or on the Last Day. There is an order to all things, even this. We come to the word first by hearing it. It is in the hearing that we encounter the first stirrings of wisdom, the wisdom of God. To hear the word of God is to be drawn to its truth, its beauty and its goodness. But it is not enough to just hear it at this first level. It is when we begin to “conform” our very lives to it that we begin to mature in the spiritual life.
This is, of course, not easy for many reasons. The Gospel message is contradictory to the messages of the world. When we begin to act in accord with the Gospel message, we may find ourselves sticking out like the proverbial “sore thumb.” This may bring us to experience ridicule, we may even be ostracized because of it. On the other hand, we will be doing the will of God, openly and joyfully, and we will be doing the good of the Gospel in the world. We will be those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are merciful, who are clean of heart, and the peacemakers that the world so needs. And yes, we may very well be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, but in doing these things, the kingdom of heaven will be ours. (See the Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5:2-12)
If we hear the word of God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole soul, we will be moved to do it, to live it out in our daily lives. We will not be perfect in it. We will always be beginners in this life. But we will get better the more we practice it. It is our attitude, our desire to want to live as Jesus lived that brings the graces we need to succeed more and more in the Christ life. Jesus is our model. He lived his words. He “practiced what he preached.” This is what the Holy Spirit is calling us to here in the beginning of the Letter of St. James.
Lord, We are weak, but our hearts are full of the desire to follow you. Help us to not just hear the power, the beauty and the majesty of your word, but to live it more and more confidently each day. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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