Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The deeper questions

The Letter of St. James both asks and answers one of the truly perennial questions.

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?

His answer in centered in two verbs: to possess, and to obtain. In our Christian understanding it is our passions that drive us to desire to obtain and possess. And these desires lead to conflict and war.

Is it always wrong to desire to obtain and possess? The simple answer is no. If I wanted absolutely nothing I would starve to death or freeze to death in no time.

We believe that every human being has a right to obtain and possess, a right to private property. The key questions are: what do you desire to possess; and how do you go about obtaining it?

After all the letter tells us:

You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly,
to spend it on your passions.

Here he is not talking about every situation. He is not suggesting that the starving poor are starving because they ask wrongly. We all understand easily enough to whom he is talking.

War and conflict are not bad things if they are persons struggling to obtain their most basic human rights. The people of the Ukraine struggled against enormous forces to obtain their God-given rights.

So far they seem to have avoided the next step, giving into the passions spoken of in this reading, to go beyond their rights and to seek to obtain and posses what is not theirs. This is what leads to the looting and destruction that so often follows a revolution.

Today's reading invites us to do a couple of things. Firstly, we must look into our own hearts and ask if there are things I desire to which I have no rights. Secondly, let us pray that our Ukrainian brothers and sisters will continue to be able to govern their passions so that this time they may be able to emerge from this conflict with the life to which all people have a right.