Wednesday of Week 7 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on James 4:13-17

‘Man proposes but God disposes.’  Linked with yesterday’s warnings about what can happen to us when we are driven by hedonism and greed is another about our combined arrogance, short-sightedness and presumption about the future.

The passage speaks of the great uncertainties of life, its complete dependence on God, and the necessity of submitting totally to God’s will. All of these help one know and do what is right.  To disregard this is to live in pride and arrogance and failure to do what is right is a sin.

James speaks to those who sit down to make great plans of how they are going to make a killing in business and walk off with large profits.  Whole lives can be built on such dreams.  But he pulls us up short:

Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring

He reminds us of the fragility of life:

For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

It happens every day – young lives, full of promise, wiped out in the blink of an eye.

Concentrating our energies on a future built on the acquisition of wealth, fame and success is a total waste of time.  One way or the other, it all ends in a puff of smoke, a collection of bones in a cemetery.  We can seem to have everything and it can be gone in minutes. Jesus has a striking parable about that (Luke 12:13-21).

What James suggests instead of arrogant ambition is that we say:

If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.

We are totally in his hands and we do not know what the next hour or the next minute will bring, let alone the next day or the next year.

The truly wise person is the one who concentrates on the here and now, who finds God in the present moment and responds to him there.  Our future is built on what we do and are right now.  And God is to be sought never in the past or the future, but only in the present. God’s will is to be found in the realities – not the daydreams – of our daily lives.

This is not to exclude all forms of planning in our lives.  Not to plan in certain areas would be quite irresponsible.  But all our planning must be in conformity with the Christian vision of life and totally contingent on developments beyond our control. We may plan for the future but, in seeking and finding God, we come back to the here and now.

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