Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.
Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
There are times when our faith calls us to fearlessly work for societal change in the public sphere. There are times when our faith calls us to connect with God inside of us and bask in the nurturing love of our Creator. The tension between deeply private and public faith is the daily life of prayer that we live to answer the gift of the radically immanent and transcendent love of our God.
In the midst of taking a hard look at what our Catholic Social Teaching challenges us to do in our public lives to advocate for our brothers and sisters and a just society, the Gospel this Sunday lures us back inside of ourselves. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that it is not about who is the greatest or who accomplishes the most. The apostles are fighting over who is the greatest, and Jesus refocuses them. He takes a child on to his lap and reminds them that by loving the child, they are loving Jesus. As Jesus embraces a child in the story, I can almost feel Him welcoming me, and adult woman, to come sit in his lap and rest.
The second reading from James seen above does the same in its first word: Beloved. As we work to create justice in our own communities, may we start with and return to the truth that we are God’s beloved. No matter how isolated we may feel at times in the world, the One who created us does, indeed, adore us. That love can bring so much healing and strength. On hard days, sometimes I whisper, “Beloved,” to myself to remind me that I am loved by God. It is an intimate, unconditional love that is the same love we are working toward in our communities.
Yesterday I spoke with a friend who had returned from a mediation retreat. In the middle, they did two days of complete silence. She said she realized, in the silence, how much energy she wastes establishing her ego in the world. How much energy she wastes making sure people are comfortable socially. In the quiet, she could really hear what she was thinking, and at times she did not like the thoughts in her own head. Upon really hearing her mental patterns, she worked to refine her thoughts and let go of her ego and her insecurities. It was fruitful work.
I thought of my friend upon reading the line, “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?” from James. As we work for a peaceful world, maybe we should first work toward a peaceful mind. Is there conflict in your own head? How do you wage war on yourself in your own mind? My friend reminded me that we all have the power to bring about peace in our minds, to stop the war in our own beings. From that place of peace, assured that God loves us, we can go forth into the world and exude that peace in our communities.
I have challenged myself this week to set aside time to find quiet, to be able to really hear my own thought. In that quiet, I will dwell in own belovedness with God. I will look for corners of my mind that are coveting and envying, where jealously and selfish ambition live and try to let them go. I will receive what God has for me this week and try to find peace inside my own mind and heart. Will you join me?
Where, when and how will you be able to find quiet this week to listen to your thoughts?
Is there a war waging in your own mind? What are you fighting with yourself about?
When was a time when you truly believed that you are God’s beloved?Photo courtesy of mndaniels via Creative Commons License