When Jesus and his disciples arrive at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Do you see anything? Do you see people who look like trees (or puppets or zombies or fools) moving around? I don’t know about you but I do, and I can only hope that I am not one of them!
I can't stand the fools on TV shows because I can't stand watching people who are not willing to be human. I have a hard time digesting the zombies and puppets that simply repeat like parrots what they have heard and never investigated. There are very few TV shows that I could possibly watch because I don’t find their exaggerated and over-the-top humor to be humorous. However, when it comes to movies, I do watch movies. I enjoy them, and I can’t wait to see the latest war movie with real active Navy SEALS. Why? Because they are not actors.
Today, Saint James reminds us to be “doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (Jas 1:19-27). The Apostle wants us to be active and real believers, not just robots and puppets of those around us. He pleads with his people to be shakers and movers. Prayer is not enough. Parents who only pray for their children are not doing enough. You have to be very active and present in their lives too. Other than God, you must be their greatest influence for good.
Oliver Stone, the famous liberal movie director, is Jewish. His wife is a Christian. They decided long ago not to influence their child in either direction. Yesterday, he converted to Islam. Bravo! Their mistake was not so much wanting their son to decide for himself, but caring far too little in what type of decision he would make. By now it has come to their realization that by excluding their own influence in their son’s life, they opened the door for others to do it for them! No one makes decisions as if they lived on a deserted island. Everything we learn, we learn from others.
St. James pleads with his brothers and sisters to preach and live for the Lord, and his call goes out to all of us. We must be active in the words and works of the Lord. The Church needs you to be another Christ: to preach what you believe and live what you believe!
Organized religion is not a bad thing. It means I belong to a community that stretches both in time and place, and whose adherents consist of the living and the dead. It means I adhere to a creed! How often do you hear people say, “I have no Creed!” Well, they do! To say you have no creed is, logically speaking, your creed! It's just a poor man’s creed, that’s all. The same can be said of those who say, “There is no truth.” Well, that too is a contradiction because apparently the only truth that exists is that there is no truth.
Organized religion gives us discipline, order and structure, three things we all need in our lives. It saves me from creating my own God!
Not all religions are the same. Altars, incense and robes may appear to be the same, but their meanings could not be further apart. G.K. Chesterton said it best, Two armies may appear similar, but what they are fighting for are not! Two swords may appear similar, but their purpose may be entirely different. One may be used to tap someone’s shoulder. The other to lob someone’s head off! The externals of religion may appear similar, but their purposes are worlds apart!
Organized Religion brings hands together. We build off of one another. We build off of our past and well into the future. We can better understand who we are and who we are not, and who God is and isn’t. Rituals give a sense of security and progress. My morning ritual allows me to know what to expect and to be on time! Come to think of it, even basketball players go through their routine at the free throw line. The Universe, our solar system, our planet thrives on routine, and we thrive because of it! The only time I can't live on routine is when a limb is sprained or broken. Then I am at a loss.
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like” (Jas 1:21-22)
Unfortunately, "at a loss" is how so many of us feel when it comes to our faith, our religion, our culture, our history, our family and ourselves! We see ourselves as if looking in a mirror, and all we see is literally the minimum.