In today’s first reading, St. James is speaking to those in the community who are non-Palestinian Jews living throughout the Greek and Roman world. He is offering them advice on how to live a moral life. He notices that they have made elaborate business plans with a view to making a profit. In this context he reminds them that they are no more consequential than a “puff of smoke.”
At first glance this image may seem a little contrary to all of the Scriptures we have read in which we are told that God cares for us and loves us beyond human understanding. However, St. James is reflecting on the length of a human life rather than on our value in the eyes of God. In that context, St. James is making a very valid point. The span of our lives is determined by God and God alone.
Throughout our lives, we attempt to become an integrated person. This means understanding who we are in God’s eyes, recognizing that God is the Creator and that we are the creatures. Creatures do not chart their own course. Creatures follow the will of the Creator.
This is a difficult lesson to integrate into our own lives, especially for people of the Western World who are used to thinking that they are the masters of their own destiny. We are so used to looking with admiration at the self-made man or woman that we become oblivious to the fact that there is no such thing. We are who we are by God’s design and plan. God has given us free will in order to make it possible for us to choose to follow, but we should not confuse that ability to choose with being the master.
Jesus time on this earth was spent forming the apostles so that they could integrate God’s will into their lives, lives which were to be spent in service. The Eucharist reminds us that just as Jesus serves us by giving us his very self, we too are called upon to live according to God’s will.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator