Joyful Calculation

February 14, 2022
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Lent is just a little over two weeks away. We will spend the intervening time in good company with daily insights from James, Peter and Mark. Today we begin the Epistle of James.

The Epistle of James- Chapter 1: Illustration provided to Wikimedia Commons by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing as part of a cooperation project. Sweet Publishing released these images, which are taken from now-out-of-print Read’n Grow Picture Bible Illustrations (Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984.), under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0

This letter is one of the very earliest of the New Testament. Scholars are mixed about exactly which “James” wrote it, but agree that it was one of several who were very close to Jesus – perhaps one of “the brothers of Jesus” mentioned in several New Testament passages:

  • Matthew 12:46-50
  • Mark 3:31
  • Luke 8:19
  • John 2:12
  • Acts 1:14
  • 1 Corinthians 9:5
  • and specifically “the Lord’s brother James” in Galatians 1:19

James writes in the style of Wisdom Literature, those Old Testament books that give advice, proverbs, and insights for living a holy life. His immediate audience was a community of dispersed Christian Jews whose world was filled with increasing upheaval and persecution.


When I read the following description I thought how germane James’s letter could be for our world today. His themes echo the teachings of Pope Francis for our chaotic time:

The epistle is renowned for exhortions on fighting poverty and caring for the poor in practical ways (1:26–27; 2:1-4; 2:14-19; 5:1-6), standing up for the oppressed (2:1-4; 5:1-6) and not being “like the world” in the way one responds to evil in the world (1:26-27; 2:11; 3:13-18; 4:1-10). Worldly wisdom is rejected and people are exhorted to embrace heavenly wisdom, which includes peacemaking and pursuing righteousness and justice (3:13-18).

Jim Reiher, “Violent Language – a clue to the Historical Occasion of James.”Evangelical Quarterly. Vol. LXXXV No. 3. July 2013

Here is the golden advice James gives us today:

  • Be joyful in trials.
  • Let trials increase your perseverance not discourage you.
  • Doing this is a sign of wisdom.
  • When your wisdom is depleted, ask God for more with an open and trusting heart.
  • Honor all people, high or low in circumstances
  • Don’t be fooled by riches. They fade away.

In our Gospel, Jesus is frustrated with the Pharisees who insincerely demand a magical sign from him. They demonstrate none of the spiritual wisdom and openness to grace that James describes.

When we think about our own faith, where does it fall on the scale of sincerity, on the spectrum joy, justice, and faithful perseverance?


Poetry: On Joy and Sorrow – Kahlil Gibran

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises 
was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, 
the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine 
the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, 
the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart 
and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow 
that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, 
and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for 
that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” 
and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, 
and when one sits alone with you at your board, 
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales 
between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty 
are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you 
to weigh his gold and his silver, 
needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Music: Count It All Joy

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

April 21, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 66, the exuberant prayer of those who recognize the beauty of God in their lives. They can see Love’s sacred thread, even when it is woven in subtle tones through the fabric of their lives.

I want to be one of those people, don’t you?

But sometimes, life might not look so beautiful. Surely it didn’t for some of the persecuted  Christians in today’s first reading. And yet they remained faithful and found joy.

Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word. …
Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing…
There was great joy in that city.

Acts 8:4-8

Joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is a foundational disposition of those convinced of God’s loving and faithful presence in our lives and in all Creation. It is a gift that accompanies faith, nurtures hope, and impels charity.

It is what our soul looks like when it shouts “Wow!” to God.

Say to God: “How awesome your deeds!
Before your great strength all contradiction cringes.
All the earth falls in worship before you;
they sing of you, sing of your name!”

Psalm 66: 3-4

We can’t just WILL ourselves into this kind of joy. But we can ask for it, pray for it, plead for it.  Such a prayer will turn and open our hearts toward our generous God Who longs to bless us with joy.


Poetry: Joy and Woe – William Blake

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.

Music: Ode to Joy – Ludwig van Beethoven