Christians are supposed to be contradictions. The very paradox of the cross – eternal life won through suffering and death, should tip us off that contradiction is a real part of our lives. Jesus commanded us to be witnesses to the Kingdom of God while living here on earth. Throughout history Christians have been joy-filled when their lives were threatened by death for the Gospel. In the times when reason says flee, we stood our ground during plagues to assist the sick, poor, orphaned and widowed. When all hope was lost (say the fall of Jerusalem) we gathered the strangers around us and filled them with our Hope of Glory, the Lord Jesus. There is however, a form of contradiction that is not healthy which is a malignant form of cancer to all Christians. St. James addresses it in James 1: 8:
A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
In a sense, this type of contradiction could be called spiritual schizophrenia; for the phrase “double-minded” literally means “two-souls”. And, as we all know, one human soul per human body.
St. James began his letter encouraging the Christian community in Jerusalem to pray for perseverance through sincere faith in the first six verses of the Epistle. At the end of verses six, seven and eight, the tone changes. He states that the double-minded person should not expect to receive anything from God. Why? He explains that
such a person holds back complete trust in God because inside he wavers between conviction and doubt (Sir 1:28). This makes prayer less fervent and answers to prayer less certain (CCC2734). (Source: St. James Biblical Commentary, Ignatius Press)
For many of us, this is a hard passage to hear because we know that we live in a material world but have faith in God that we cannot perceive sensibly. We live in a world that bombards us with sensible “things”. St. James not satisfied with the communities understanding of double-mindedness, restates his exhortation with much stronger language showing what is at the core of being double-minded in James 4:4 saying,
Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
For those who are married or who have been in a significant relationship, we understand that when we are away from our spouse or significant other, the separation does not give us permission to date, see, or pursue someone else. It is no different in the spiritual life.
Creation: In its proper perspective
Due to original sin, we have a tendency to yearn for only those things that we can imagine and experience. Because the sensible enamors us so easily, we willfully neglect the spiritual core of who we are. Then the Trinity created man they intended the senses to provide the soul with those experiences and materials that are good, true and beautiful. They are meant to feed the should that which is “good, pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Moreover, the sensible was to be used to share in creativity of God. The Father left the world in a state of journeying for us to assist Him in its perfection (CCC302).
Creation was meant to point us to the living God (CCC299). It is meant to assist us in contemplating the divine by allowing our hearts to sore to the highest heights in preparation for the delights of heaven. It is not meant to weigh us down. Does this mean that we need to reject all creation and external delights like the Manichean? By no means!
Sacred Scripture: Training us for holiness
It does mean that we need to exercise prudential wisdom and allow our hearts and minds to be transformed by the Gospel by the obedience of faith (Rom 16:26). Sacred Scripture is the sure means of securing and guarding our faith:
- My son, to my words be attentive, to my sayings incline your ear; Let them not slip out of your sight, keep them within your heart; For they are life to those who find them, to man’s whole being they are health. With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life. (Pro 4:23)
- How can the young walk without fault? Only by keeping your words. With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commands. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you… (Ps 119:9-11)
It is through the meditation on the Word of God that we discover what should and should not do. For,
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
The Catechism is also a great source of discerning our actions and choices in our lives. Here too we are guaranteed to receive the truth. The “big” sins or the top ten are really self-evident. It is slow-cooking of the enticements of the world that we should really be worried about. A mortal sin never “just” happens. We weaken ourselves by venial sins that eat away at our intellect and will until we are open to commit that grace sin.
We will always be struggling to put to death the contradictions in our lives. We do though, need to put to death the glaring, but venial ones, that immediately draw attention to ourselves and lay impotent the power of the cross in our lives. Here are a few Scriptures to guide us along the way:
Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself? (Habakkuk 1:13)
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3)
Refrain from every kind of evil. (1 Thess 5:22)
Remember, evil does not necessarily mean Satanic or breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Evil is a lack of some-thing. It is any privation of the good, true and beautiful. Many are desensitized to evil especially when it comes to entertainment. That is understandable. What is not understandable is doing nothing about it – quickly, decisively and radically. Would you take your time and let cancer spread without undergoing treatments? What would you do to live? Change your lifestyle – of course! And yet, we are fine with the entertainment industry deadening our intellects and wills. Have we become like the Romans who preferred evil than good. More importantly, let us not undergo the covenantal curse that our Lord quotes from Isaiah 6: 9-12:
- And he replied: Go and say to this people: Listen carefully, but you shall not understand! Look intently, but you shall know nothing!
- You are to make the heart of this people sluggish, to dull their ears and close their eyes; Else their eyes will see, their ears hear, their heart understand, and they will turn and be healed. “How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied: Until the cities are desolate, without nhabitants, Houses, without a man, and the earth is a desolate waste. Until the LORD removes men far away, and the land is abandoned more and more.
We need to have a discerning spirit. We need to cultivate the Church’s worldview. She has a particular way of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and even smelling the gift of creation. It is only then that we will experience John 10:10 and the joy He has for us.
- Scripture discerns and transforms our life through the grace of conversion. But, it is through the Blessed Sacrament that we are healed and empowered to live the grace-filled life. Let’s live a life of contradiction in this land of Laodicea and remember,
“You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” -St.Therese of Lisieux