Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(James 4:1-10; Mark 9:30-37)
Aldous Huxley published Brave New World in 1932 as a warning for the future. He predicted the hedonism of gratuitous sex and drugs that has become reality. At the end of the novel the main character is seen whipping himself in an effort to beat back desires of the flesh. 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 overwhelm wisdom and even rationality. Quite shockingly, after addressing his readers as “beloved” at the beginning, he calls them “adulterers” in this passage to impress on them the urgency of the situation. He cuts no slack for delay or tolerance. Rather he admonishes, “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 as James exhorts his readers. Whipping ourselves is unnecessary, but occasional fasting and constant vigilance over what we look at should become norms. Beyond individual discipline, we need to inculcate a culture of human dignity and respect. Such a culture would ban the death penalty as well as abortion. It would also encourage everyone to strive for the common good.