Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(James 4:1-10; Mark 9:30-37)
Mark Twain must have written the “War Prayer” at an especially dark moment. The short story cynically excoriates praying for victory in battle. Its argument is simple: if a congregation prays that its soldiers triumph, it is also praying that its enemies’ soldiers are destroyed. The logic of the story is how could a God of love entertain such an outrageous request? Twain’s “War Prayer” gives echo to the passage from the Letter of James in today’s first reading.
This is one of the parts of James’ letter best described as diatribe. James unreservedly chastises the people for its excesses. In this case he tells them that they wage war and then pray for the wrong things. Rather than looking for victory in war, he would tell them to sow seeds of peace. The overall intent of the passage is consistent with the gospel message of repentance and renewal.
We are faced with a challenge much greater than reframing our prayers so that they do not offend God. We must be vigilant about living in accord with the gospel. Jesus taught us to pray for our persecutors. This does not mean that we ask that they triumph in battle. Rather we pray that they follow the righteous path of enemy love on which we have embarked.