Monday of week 7 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on James 3:13-18

James today urges us to cultivate true wisdom.  Wisdom is not a matter of having a great deal of information or of being an expert in the doctrine or the teachings of the Church (or in any other field for that matter).  An illiterate Christian may have more real wisdom than a theologian.

Wisdom is primarily a question of insight into the meaning and the value of things.  It is a deep understanding of how all things relate to each other.  Here it is closely related with behaviour and the way we relate to other people.

So James speaks of a wisdom that is filled with “humility and good sense”.  Humility is not a question of making oneself small but of accepting one’s limitations; it is a question of being able to see oneself objectively, recognising one’s strong points but not denying one’s weaknesses.  A humble person is one who sees and accepts himself as he is.  Wisdom is also a question of “good sense”, of being able to sense the right approach in a given situation.  A person who can discern the true and the good in all kinds of situations and respond appropriately.

“Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” which lead to arrogance and “false claims against the truth” are certainly not the ingredients of wisdom.  As James comments, “wisdom” like this does not come from above, from God.  It is the wisdom of the arrogant and the proud, of people who put themselves at the centre.  It is “earthbound, devilish and cunning”.  It is ultimately destructive and divisive.

“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.”   Jealousy comes of resenting the good that is in others.  Ambition is a desire to get ahead of others irrespective of the cost to them.  It is divisive and destructive.  “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

True wisdom, “wisdom from above” is “innocent”, that is, it has a certain guilelessness about it.  It has a transparent openness and is entirely free of deception or concealment.  It is “peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and in the kindly deeds that are its fruits, impartial and sincere”.

It is a combination of truth and love and deep compassion which is clearly seen in the way one acts and relates with others.  What is produced is the “harvest of justice”, sown in peace for those whose whole way of life is to bring peace to others.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt 5:9)  This wisdom is personified in the character of Jesus.

Let us pray for that wisdom today – and to be protected from any kind of deviousness and cunning.  May our lives be filled with peace and harmony and spread that peace to all those with whom we come in contact.

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