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Church as the People of God

 

Lectio 2- James 1:5-11

by Fr Giuseppe Fabbrini

Introduction

The Church as the ‘People of God’
As we keep on listening to the Word of God by going through the Letter of James, we must highlight the basic principle which guides the People of God: Wisdom.
A gift from God, fruit of the Spirit, Wisdom must be beseeched both as a personal grace and as a grace for the community.
‘Wisdom’ comes from the Hebrew term ‘hokmah’ (‘palace of water’). Let us just imagine that we are in the midst of the desert and very very thirsty. A palace appears in front of us. The gates of its walls open and we can see within, we can see a spring of flowing water to drink from. This is Wisdom.
‘Wisdom’ comes from the Latin ‘sàpere’ (‘to taste’). It is the opportunity to taste life, communion with the Lord, His work, in our lives. This is Wisdom.

Lectio

James 1:5-11
5 Any of you who lacks wisdom must ask God, who gives to all generously and without scolding; it will be given.
6 But the prayer must be made with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea by the buffeting of the wind.
7 That sort of person, in two minds,
8 inconsistent in every activity, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
9 It is right that the brother in humble circumstances should glory in being lifted up,
10 and the rich in being brought low. For the rich will last no longer than the wild flower;
11 the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, its flower falls, its beauty is lost. It is the same with the rich: in the middle of a busy life, the rich will wither.

Meditatio

5 Any of you who lacks wisdom must ask God, who gives to all generously and without scolding; it will be given.
The People of God is the fruit of divine Wisdom. That Wisdom was at work in history as the Vatican II’s Constitution ‘Lumen Gentium’ (9) relates:

God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. (…) Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, (cf 1 Co 11:25) calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, (cf 1 P 1:23) not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, (cf Jn 3:5-6) are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people… who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God”. (1 P 2:9-10)

That messianic people has Christ for its head. (…) The state of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in His temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us. Its end is the kingdom of God. (…)

Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God. (cf Dt 23:1 ff) So likewise the new Israel which while living in this present age goes in search of a future and abiding city (cf Heb 13:14) is called the Church of Christ. (cf Mt 16:18)

The People of God lives therefore ‘for’ and ‘through’ God’s Wisdom. Each and every of its members may profit by Her. She is a gift that we must constantly ask from God.

6 But the prayer must be made with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the waves thrown up in the sea by the buffeting of the wind.
7 That sort of person, in two minds, 8 inconsistent in every activity, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Divine Wisdom is not derived by summing up human experiences; on the contrary, She is a gift from God, one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Therefore we must beg God in all faith that She might be given to us; She cannot be separated from faith. She leads us to know God’s love, to be loved by God, to contemplate God’s love. That is why St James exhorts us not to be wavering and fluctuating as the waves of the sea, tossed up and down by the wind.
Faith requires faithfulness. Faith makes the hearts of believers ‘compact’, so that they can defeat their wavering, unstable minds and actions. If we have ‘compact’, sound and firm hearts, we will be able to ask for Divine Wisdom. The result will be an even greater firmness, in spite of all the setbacks of history, both in individual members and in the whole ecclesial body of the People of God.

9 It is right that the brother in humble circumstances should glory in being lifted up,
10 and the rich in being brought low. For the rich will last no longer than the wild flower;
11 the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, its flower falls, its beauty is lost. It is the same with the rich: in the middle of a busy life, the rich will wither.

The People of God is multifarious. It is made up of the humble as well as the rich, the learned as well as the illiterate, the great as well as the little, the famous as well as the unknown. Those who are proud of their titles, prestige, wealth, will be like a flower destined to wither under the scorching sun. Flowers usually live thanks to the sun; but ‘that’ flower believes that there are more important sources of light than the sun…
In the People of God all the members are loved and chosen, because they share the dignity of ‘brothers’. This dignity is equal in all, and must be acknowledged, held in high esteem, preserved and respected by all. And if a brother has been endowed with more wealth or prestige, he will have to put that at the service of everybody else. Thus, the brother in humble circumstances will be lifted up, and the brother who is rich will live in humbleness. This project too is a fruit of Wisdom.

Conclusions

It is Divine Wisdom who – from eternity – has thought about the People of God; and who has formed it in history. And the People of God lives thanks to Wisdom, therefore we invoke Her and beg Her from God every day.
Wisdom comes from above and lets my thoughts fly. She helps me plan my daily life in all hope, She guides my steps, She leads me to entrust all my decisions and gestures to God.

Oratio

Prayer is guided by the Word itself. Let us pray with the Word, let us pray the Word.

Wisdom 9:1-18  
God of our ancestors, Lord of mercy,
who by Your word have made the universe,
and in Your wisdom have fitted human beings
to rule the creatures that You have made,
to govern the world in holiness and saving justice
and in honesty of soul to dispense fair judgement,
grant me Wisdom, consort of Your throne,
and do not reject me from the number of Your children.
For I am Your servant, son of Your serving maid,
a feeble man, with little time to live,
with small understanding of justice and the laws.
Indeed, were anyone perfect among the sons of men,
if he lacked the Wisdom that comes from You, he would still count for nothing.
that comes from You, he would still count for nothing.

You have chosen me to be king over Your people,
to be judge of Your sons and daughters.
You have bidden me build a temple on Your holy mountain,
and an altar in the city where You have pitched Your tent,
a copy of the holy Tent which You prepared at the beginning.
With You is Wisdom, She who knows Your works,
She who was present when You made the world;
She understands what is pleasing in Your eyes
and what agrees with Your commandments.
Despatch Her from the holy heavens,
send Her forth from Your throne of glory
to help me and to toil with me
and teach me what is pleasing to You;
since She knows and understands everything
She will guide me prudently in my actions
and will protect me with Her glory.
Then all I do will be acceptable,
I shall govern Your people justly
and be worthy of my father’s throne.

What human being indeed can know the intentions of God?
And who can comprehend the will of the Lord?
For the reasoning of mortals is inadequate,
our attitudes of mind unstable;
for a perishable body presses down the soul,
and this tent of clay weighs down the mind with its many cares.
It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth,
laborious to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?
And who could ever have known Your will, had You not given Wisdom
and sent Your Holy Spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened
and people have been taught what pleases You,
and have been saved, by Wisdom.

Contemplatio

I can read my life in the light of the Lord’s gifts.
When I do find the way to love the Lord and honestly fulfil my humanity in the People of God, ie in the Church, then I will be able to find the ‘palace of water’, Wisdom.
When I can feel the Lord holding my hand in his own, and leading me and accompanying me… when I regard myself as a ‘living stone’ of the People of God… when I can feel His charm, supporting my consecration to Him, then I will be able to taste the fullness and beauty of my life. Even when I do not respond fully and I can feel the burden of my own vulnerability, then I will find Wisdom.
That is why I invoke Her every day, I love Her, I cherish Her in my heart.