Homilette for Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(James 4:1-10)

Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932 as a warning for the future. He predicted the hedonism of gratuitous sex and drugs that in some ways has become reality. In one of the novel’s final scenes the protagonist whips himself to overcome desires of the flesh that prompted the creation of the brave new world. Unfortunately, however, the culture of hedonism is too strong to be checked by individual effort.

The passage from the Letter of James that we hear today relates a similar message as Brave New World. The writer is intensely aware of the power of carnal desires to overcome wisdom and even rationality. Quite shockingly, after addressing his readers as “beloved” at the beginning, he calls them “adulterers” in this passion to impress on them the urgency of the situation. He makes no room for delay or tolerance as he says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.”

If we are to preserve ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ, we must act radically as James exhorts. Whipping ourselves seems unnecessary, but occasional fasting and perennial care about what we look at should become our norms. Beyond individual discipline, we need to inculcate a culture of human dignity and respect. Such a culture would not simply have laws forbidding various immoral practices. Rather, it would strive to enlighten and uplift everyone to a regard for the common good as much as to individual rights.