Why is this? What happened to “progress?”
Our churches today are very often huge messes.
Why is this? What happened to “the body is one?”
Today’s first reading (James 4:1-10) gives us some answers.
From whence come wars and fightings among you?
come they not hence,
even of your lusts that war in your members?
What is meant here by “lust” is not just sexual lust but rather the broader desire for pleasure.
Nor is it simply the desire for pleasure in itself that is bad, but rather the desires for pleasure “that war in your members.” That is one source of conflict.
This does not just mean the “members” of society or of the church. Indeed, the root of all conflict ultimately stems from the conflict within ourselves as individuals.
Different parts of us often want different things: we are full of conflicting desires “that war in (our) members.”
Ye lust, and have not:
ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain:
ye fight and war, yet ye have not,
because ye ask not.
Ye ask, and receive not,
because ye ask amiss,
that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
(This latter point resonates in the old Janis Joplin song “Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?”)
Nor is it simply a matter of conflicting physical desires within us, but also that these desires are not aligned with our true identity as beings created in the image of God and united in the blood of Christ. This is the ultimate source of all conflict - internal and external.
We have been created and redeemed for the purpose of union with God, not for immersion in material things.
When we are ruled by our desires or otherwise wallow in materialism, we are thus unfaithful to our inmost selves as well as being unfaithful to God. That is why St. James uses a very strong name to describe us:
Ye adulterers and adulteresses,
know ye not that the friendship of the world
is enmity with God?
whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world
is the enemy of God.
It is not a pretty picture. Indeed, sometimes there seems little hope for us, for the Church, or for the world.
But he giveth more grace.
Wherefore he saith,
God resisteth the proud,
but giveth grace unto the humble.
Thus St. James shines a light for us on the path out of disorder and conflict, the path to true peace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – peace within ourselves and peace with all.
Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God,
and he will draw nigh to you.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners;
and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
let your laughter be turned to mourning,
and your joy to heaviness.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,
and he shall lift you up.