Day 351: Draw Near to God

James 3:1-12 Sins of speech may seem trivial but often have deep repercussions, especially when one is expected to be a role model in living the faith. Sins of speech can do great harm-to the name of God, to the feelings of others, and to the reputations of others. Sins expressed in words come in the form of falsehood, lust, vainglory, and gossip to name just a few examples. Curbing the tongue, however, benefits the virtues of temperance, justice, and charity. (CCC 2148, 2464, 2476-2487)

Ch 3:9-12 It is inconsistent to praise God while verbally abusing our neighbor. Love and honor is to be extended in the way we speak to both God and neighbor. (CCC 1702-1705, 2645, 2475-2476)

Ch 3:13-18 False wisdom is rooted in pride, whereas true wisdom is humble, merciful, serene, and sincere. Those who claim to be wise but are covetous and strive for power possess at best a worldly wisdom, which is incapable of appreciating the transcendence of God through the events and circumstances of everyday life. (CCC 36, 216, 1954, 1978-1986)

Ch 4:1-12 Greed, pride, and disordered attachments to things of this world are the leading causes of conflict among people. These sins put power, self-aggrandizement, and material gain as ultimate goods, which clipse love for God and neighbor. This behavior is analogously equated with marital infidelity to describe their rejection of God and his laws. In speaking evil of others, we attempt to bring them down and raise ourselves up, and by judging others, we place ourselves in the position of God. Resentment, backbiting, and slanderous preach are further manifestations of alienation from God. Harming the reputation of others without objectively valid reason, whether by speaking the truth or by falsehood, is sinful; the former is called detraction, and the latter is called calumny. (CCC 2475, 2477, 2479, 2507, 2538-2540)

Ch 4:3 Prayer for the satisfaction of our disordered attachments will go unheeded since God responds to those petitions that lead to an increase of virtue and holiness. (CCC 2734-2737)

Ch 4:7 The grace of God enables us to resist temptation.

Ch 4:8 From the moment of creation, God has desired to draw us into his perfect happiness and everlasting life. (CCC 1474)

Ch 4:13-17 It is good to make plans for the future, as long as we call on God’s assistance and submit our aspirations to his will. We can only avoid sin by discerning what is good and pleasing to God, counting on God’s help. (CCC 303-308, 321, 323, 2115, 2554)

Ch 4:17 The knowledge of what is true and good obliges us to act accordingly. To act against what is true and good is a sin of commission, while failure to act on the same criteria is called a sin of omission. (CCC 1853, 2282, 2326)

Ch 5:1-6 James sharply criticizes the wealthy whose lives reflect greed and attachment to material goods. “Everyone to whom much is given, of him much will be required” (Lk 12:48). Those who enjoy material wealth are expected to share their resources for the common good. The condemnation here is directed toward those who accumulate goods simply for their own pleasure or who cheat or deprive their employees of their just wages. Fair compensation for work should take into account the contribution of the worker and the material, social, cultural, and spiritual needs of his or her family. Mere agreement on a wage is an insufficient determination of a just wage, as persons in desperate circumstances often accept work with unfair remuneration or working conditions.

You have killed the righteous man: To oppress the poor and vulnerable is a terrible sin since it removes their means for livelihood and makes their lives odious. It is one of the sins that cry to heaven, a transgression of the Seventh Commandment. (CCC 1867, 2302-2304, 2409, 2434, 2445-2446)

Ch 5:3 For the last days: This term refers not just to the end of the world, but to the present age, which began with the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant. Christ and the New Testament writers warned of the confusion, persecution, and false prophets who would deceive many before the Second Coming. Those who hoard worldly possessions risk being made vulnerable to such deception and being caught unprepared for both the particular and the Final Judgment. (CCC 675-677, 1723)

Ch 5:7-12 Reiterating his call for patience in suffering and the building of virtue, James called for a solidarity among Christians and strength in faith as he invited them to mirror the compassion and mercy of Christ.

The coming of the Lord: The Second Coming of Christ to judge the world at the end of time. (CCC 1718)

Ch 5:12 To make an oath is to call upon God as a witness to the truth of something being said, claimed, or promised. It must not be used for frivolous matters or used to give credence to a known falsehood. Even the attempt to “tone down” the sacred nature of an oath by swearing by Heaven or some part of creation is an offense to God, who is the Creator. (CCC 2150-2155, 2465-2470)

Ch 5:13-18 Here we find the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick being practiced. In time of sickness, the elders (priests or bishops) were to anoint the suffering individual. This act of sacramental anointing strengthens the sick person against fear, despair, and the temptations of the Devil and at the same time forgives sins in preparation for death. In some cases, it may even restore health. Prayer is a necessary component of all forms of healing-physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual-as is the sincere confession of sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (CCC 1014, 1499-1501, 1510-1520, 1525-1532)

Ch 5:16-18 Those who pray in humility and righteousness have their prayers answered, in large part because such a person is more aligned with the will of God.

Confess your sins to one another: In the context, this instruction refers to the confession of sins to the elder (i.e., priest) before the anointing. (CCC 2582-2583, 2686, 2737-2738)

Ch 5:19-20 One of the great works of love is to facilitate a person’s reconciliation with Christ and the Church after being alienated from God. Prayer and encouragement toward this purpose is of great spiritual benefit to both the one returning to the faith and the faithful member who helped draw the wayward Christian back home. To this end, the practice of fraternal correction, when done with love and humility, is a marvelous work of mercy. (CCC 1434)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

The Letter of Paul to the Colossians




Main Themes:

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Colossians 1:1-2 The Epistle to the Colossians introduces Paul as an Apostle to the Gentiles by virtue of the apostolic mission given to him by the risen Christ when he appeared to him on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9:1-22). In the introduction of the letter, Paul referred to the faithful in Colossae as saints, or “holy ones.” By reason of their sanctification in Baptism and their commitment to seek perfect holiness in Heaven, the faithful on earth as well as those in Heaven and in Purgatory can rightly be called saints. 

Timothy: One of Paul’s co-workers during many of his travels. He was the addressee of two of Paul’s Epistles in the New Testament.

For all the saints: Saints are the “holy ones” in Christ. In the Apostles’ Creed, we recognize the Communion of Saints, which includes the faithful on earth, the Holy Souls suffering in Purgatory, and the blessed in Heaven. (CCC 946-948)

Ch 1:3-14 Paul prayed that the Colossians would “be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will” and “increase in the knowledge of God” with a deeper understanding of the riches of Jesus Christ. The true disciple both discerns God’s will and possesses the purity of intention to carry it out.

Ch 1:3-6 Paul often began his letters by giving thanks to God, and this letter is no exception. Note in these verses that he was thankful that the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity had taken root among the Christians of Colossae.

When we pray for you: Intercessory prayer for others is a hallmark of Christian spirituality. (CCC 2632, 2636)

Ch 1:7 Epaphras: Another of Paul’s companions and the original evangelizer of Colossae. This was a small town, in fact, the smallest place to which Paul ever wrote, and he did so mainly because his friend was there. At the time this letter was written, Paul had not yet visited Epaphras. 

Ch 1:10 Lead a life worthy…bearing fruit: While Baptism purifies a person of Original Sin and all actual sins, bestowing sanctifying grace on the soul, every baptized person needs to model his or her life actively after the life of Christ. Through God’s grace that accompanies the spiritual struggle, we can certainly bear fruits of holiness. (CCC 1839, 2516)

Ch 1:12 Qualified us: This is a reference to divine filiation, or our adoption as children of God, which is bestowed in Baptism. This status as a child of God brings about a participation in the life of the Trinity through Christ and makes us heirs to Heaven. (CCC 1996)

Ch 1:13-14 By virtue of Baptism, we are purified and justified so as to become adoptive children of God and heirs to eternal life.

We have redemption: To redeem means to purchase out of bondage. We are redeemed by the Death and Resurrection of Christ, who by his Blood ransomed us from our captivity in sin. (CCC 517, 1250, 2838-2839)

Ch 1:15-20 Paul affirmed that Christ is indeed the one God, the Creator, and, therefore, the “fullness of God.” In his divine nature, Christ is the mirror image of God the Father, while in his humanity, he reveals God with a “human face.” The divinity of Christ is stated unequivocally in the Nicene Creed: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.” (CCC 316, 461-469, 2641)

Ch 1:15 We were created in the image of God, but Christ is the image of God, i.e., he is one and the same with God, a distinct Person of the Trinity but of the same nature and substance. (CCC 142, 241, 299, 381, 1701)

Ch 1:16 Whether thrones…authorities: These are taken to mean the various types of angels created by God, both the good and those who had turned against God. Since he is God, Christ is far superior to all created beings, including the angels. (CCC 291, 331-332)

Ch 1:18 The head: Paul identified Christ as the Head of the Church who guides the various parts of the Body in their assigned tasks for the common good. His analogy of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ was a regular theme of his letters.

First-born of the dead: Christ is the first one risen, thereby opening the way for a glorious resurrection at the end of time for every person who would die in the state of grace. (CCC 504, 658, 792-796, 805, 946-953)

Ch 1:20-23 The rift between God and humanity, caused by the sin of Adam and by subsequent sins, has been bridged by the Death of Christ, who merited a superabundance of grace for salvation and holiness. Paul stressed the obligation of all Christians to avoid sin, to seek holiness, and to maintain steadfast faith in the Gospel that had been preached to them.

Now reconciled…his death: Far from the physical body serving as an obstacle to holiness, Christ’s humanity is an integral part of God’s plan of salvation. At the end of time, our souls will be reunited with our bodies. (CCC 2305)

Ch 1:24-29 What is lacking in Christ’s afflictions: Christ gave himself as the perfect Sacrifice for our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. There is no “lack” in that Sacrifice; Paul referred to our duty to respond to that offer of redemption by cooperating with the grace we are given. Such cooperation means seeking holiness, carrying our crosses, patiently enduring redemptive suffering, and keeping the moral law. Through redemptive suffering, Christ’s disciples share in his Cross and consequently win graces for the conversion of themselves and of others as well as make reparation for their own sins and the sins of others. (CCC 307-308, 618, 1499-1500, 1508)

Ch 1:26-28 The mystery: Christ revealed God’s plan of salvation and instructed his followers to spread his message throughout the world. Through Baptism, an individual is reborn into the life of Christ. Provided the person is faithful to his or her baptismal graces, he or she is assured of eternal glory together with the resurrection of the body at the end of time. (CCC 1, 568, 772, 2018)

Ch 2:1-5 Paul encouraged the Colossians to seek only Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” and in whom they can find the “understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ.” (CCC 2558)

Ch 2:6-10 The fullness of God resides in the Person of Christ, who is one with God. His humanity is a sign and instrument of his divinity and of the salvation that was his mission. 

Deity dwells bodily: A clear and unequivocal statement of the humanity and divinity of Christ. This was a scandalous idea to many Jews as well as Gentiles who rejected the idea that God could suffer as a man or that God could also have a human nature. His visible human presence enables us to penetrate the mystery of his divinity. Sacred art attempts to reflect this truth and mystery in glorifying God.

Elemental spirits: A term that refers either to the basic material elements of the universe (air, earth, fire, and water, which were included among the “gods” of pagan worship), to celestial bodies (Jewish festivals scheduled according to the cycles of the moon and sun), or to the realm of angels and demons. Whether Paul intended to mean one of these or all three, his point was that Christ reigns far above these “spirits” and elevates us above them as well. In doing so, Paul refuted the errors spread by some Jewish converts regarding the requirements for the Gentiles entering into the Church. (CCC 242, 484, 515, 722, 2502)

Ch 2:8 Human tradition: These refer to those traditions created by man. In other letters, Paul advised his readers to hold fast to tradition, meaning, those teachings left by Christ (cf. 1 Cor 11:1-2; 2 Thes 2:15). The Church distinguishes between those human traditions, which can be changed, and Sacred Tradition, which along with Sacred Scripture is a source of the Faith and, therefore, unchanging. (CCC 80-83, 97, 581)

Ch 2:11-15 Judaizers who had been preaching in Colossae were causing confusion. These were Christian converts from Judaism who believed that Gentile converts had to be circumcised and embrace the Old Law as a prerequisite for Baptism. The thought at the time was that Christianity was a sect of Judaism, so compliance with the Law of Moses was essential. Paul taught otherwise, calling the Old Law a burden that imposed standards on the Jewish people that could not be fulfilled. Under the Mosaic Law, circumcision was a sign of initiation into the Old Covenant with God; under the New Covenant, true “circumcision of the heart” is accompanied in Baptism, the first Sacrament of Initiation, through which sins are forgiven and the recipient enters into a new life of grace. As circumcision was traditionally performed on the eighth day after the birth of a male child, it is fitting that Baptism be administered even to infants.

Raised with him: Baptism is a death to sin and therefore a rising to new life in Christ. (CCC 527, 571-573, 628, 1002, 1213-1214, 1227)

Ch 2:16-23 The Judaizers also wished to impose upon the converts the obligation to keep the Jewish liturgical calendar and the various dietary regulations. The freedom that has been won through Christ, however, releases us from such observances because they belong to the Old Covenant and have no bearing on salvation and sanctification. The Old Law defined sin for us but did not grant us the grace to keep the Law perfectly, and, therefore, the Jewish ascetic and religious disciplines offered little in the way of resistance to the power of sin. (CCC 794)

Ch 2:18 Worship of angels: Angels are created spiritual beings with intelligence and will. Every angel serves God, often as a messenger (in Greek, angelos), and gives him worship. While angels are venerated and may intercede for us in prayer, worship is given only to God. In fact, in worship we join the angels in the heavenly adoration of God (cf. Rev 4:8). (CCC 335-336)

Ch 2:23 While fasting, abstinence, and other acts of mortification are to be commended, if practiced out of false humility or out of a hatred of the body, these practices become counterproductive. Ascetical practices should in no way harm the body and should contribute to the love of God and neighbor. (CCC 1430-1433, 1969)

Proverbs 30:1-14 This brief section of sayings of Agur is composed in a style different from the other sections of Proverbs.

Ch 30:8-9 These verses bring to bear the reality of divine providence and the serious importance of moderation. The petitioner asks for “neither poverty nor riches” and only seeks the food “that is needful for me,” i.e., only what is needed for a simple and dignified life. Hence, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:11). Temperance in food and drink contributes to the health of the soul. (CCC 321-323, 1809, 2115, 2554)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. Thank you so much. Oh Lord God, oh…just…what a gift of today. What a gift it is to not only hear the Letter of James and not only to hear the beginning of Colossians but also this wisdom that you impart to us in the Book of Proverbs. Thank you for journeying with us all of these…our entire life, Lord God. You never abandon us. You are always with us. You are always completely present to us. In this moment Lord God, we trust you. And in this moment, we recognize your presence wherever we are listening to these words. Lord God, you are with us. You are nearer to us than we are to ourselves and our thoughts are to ourselves. You are nearer to us than our very heart is in our chest. And we thank you. Thank you for being near to us. Thank you for being with us. Lord God, even when we don’t recognize you, you are there. You are here. You are active. Help us to never lose sight of the fact that you are present with us right now. For with you, every moment is right now. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”