Friday, July 16, 2010

"that you may be perfect and complete...

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

This is the reading for Evening Prayer for Friday, Week III of the Psalter. It's funny that when we encounter phrases like "the testing of your faith," we think about God putting us through some sort of test. It isn't God who tests our faith, which is knowledge, but the challenging circumstances we face. Sometimes these circumstances are the result of choices we make and other times circumstances just happen, quite apart from any choice of ours, but do not have God as their immediate cause. How we deal with circumstances is up to us. I can chose to remain in front of whatever I am dealing with, knowing that not only do I not stand alone, but that I can't stand alone. I must learn to use everything, to put all things at the service of realizing my destiny. Experience, both successes and failures, is the only way to learn how to do this. It is important to have a method and to have companions. It is precisely this that the "produces steadfastness" about which James writes. In other words, it isn't magic, something that comes swooping in from on high, but something realized through experience, which is, the instrument for our human journey.

I believe this is the key to sanctity, to true holiness. After all, it is difficult to think of very many saints who did not become steadfast in just the way James describes.

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