James 3

This reading compares the wisdom from above with wisdom from below.  While there are many aspects of this reading which jump out to me, one in particular speaks to me today.  This is the admonition against selfish ambition and boasting.  I received life-altering news on Friday which confirms the path our family is on and rewards the hard work I have done for the past three and a half years: I received notice of matching to an APA accredited internship.  It still hasn’t sunk in–my wife and I are overjoyed (even if it will be bittersweet to say goodbye to lots of great people).  At the same time, I feel a very real shift in my own perspective.  I feel sort of confirmed as a psychologist in training and have a sense of “I have this, I can do this,” which is quite opposite to the feeling I have recently had of relative incompetence.

Thus, this admonition to avoid selfish ambition and boasting comes at a great time for me, as I will without doubt encounter classmates at school today who may or may not have matched to internship.  For charity toward them, I have renewed perspective.  But moreover, I receive the graces from what the reading does admonish the reader to do.  

James encourages his beloved to be humble and full of mercy, among other attributes.  Those are two areas in my life in particular I need work.  It is so tempting to me to lay claim to the fruits of my labor–tangible or abstract.  Glory be to God for the good work that he has done.  Those with whom I disagree deserve mercy as well.  It is so easy for me to write off those with whom I disagree.  One of my main weaknesses is spiritual and intellectual pride and I so often put myself above others in my mind, when, in reality, I am a son of God, truly, but so is the person I denigrate in my mind.  Not only does it cultivate discord, but this pride alienates me from connecting on a truly human, much less spiritual level, from those around me.  

Lord, I give you praise and glory for the wisdom which you impart to me from today’s readings.  Thank you for sending the Spirit to teach me.  I pray that I may humbly and compliantly receive the gifts you have given me, especially in my professional life.  May all glory be yours, who gave me life.  Teach me to be humble and merciful and guide me to pure, peaceable wisdom.

Mark 9

This reading is also full of things that I could touch on.  The first piece I gain from this is a healthy dose of humility.  I understand the humility and possible humiliation the disciples went through when they could not drive out the demon from the boy and Jesus apparently has no problem doing so.  “This kind can only come out through prayer” Jesus teaches them privately, after the fact.  This lesson hits personally as I embark on this journey toward becoming a professional psychologist.  There are a few lessons to be gained from this reading.  Firstly, there are actual “demons” that the disciples could, in fact, drive out.  They were effective in some things.  That gives me hope that I will be able to be effective, at times.  On the other hand, there are different kinds of demons, some of whom are not fazed by one level of intervention, and who require a higher quality of spiritual combat.  That is, some require Jesus’ direct intervention.  I have often wrestled in my mind about the utility of psychotherapy.  Scientific evidence exists which speaks to its long-term positive effects.  I have seen short-term effects in my limited experience.  However, if true healing comes only from the grace from the Living Son of God, wouldn’t I be better of recommending attending mass more often and receiving the graces of the sacraments and daily prayer?  

I have reasoned that perhaps I can be effective in providing psychological services in that I can be an instrument for God’s grace by building a relationship with someone and guiding them to right relationship with Truth.  On the other hand, there are some who may require more extensive spiritual intervention and for whom, whether or not it will be professionally effective to suggest, spiritual healing would be more effective. 

On a more personal level, I admire with the father of the boy in the reading.  How infrequently I turn to Christ when I need healing.  More often, like our first parents, I cower in isolation when I am in pain.  Only in extraordinary situations do I rely on Christ.  Only when I have tried everything else do I acknowledge the healing presence of God.  But Jesus remarks, “Everything is possible to one who has faith!”  So often, I doubt, and so I remain attached to my own personal devices (literally and figuratively!) in handling the minor and major difficulties of life.  I cut myself off from the saving power of God because of my foolish pride in attempting to handle everything myself.  

Lord, help me to soften my heart and let go of my pride.  Help me to accept your loving embrace when I am poor, needy, and suffering.  Give me the grace to turn to you with my supplications.  Give me the faith of the father whose son was possessed by a demon.  Grant me the grace to cry out, “Help my unbelief!” in moments of distress.  

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