The sounds of technology seem to amplify in July. Cellular phones chirp with greater urgency as we try to get away for vacation. Ear buds blast a bit louder in our summer travels. Artificial voices direct us to our vacation destinations. Such melodies testify to an advanced world and, at the same time, an increasingly disconnected people.
Thankfully Catholicism provides us with ways to reconnect, both with others as we play and with God as we pray. The short New Testament Letter of James is a case in point. In five chapters, James writes in an accessible way about the nature of communication, the source of strife in our words, and how Christ and his Church can help us all communicate better.
“Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God,” James writes. “Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls” (1:19-21).
The Letter of James recognizes authentic human communication as both a sensory encounter and spiritual endeavor. In addition to the ears and mouth, communication requires the mind to focus on the meaning behind words both said and unsaid, and challenges the heart to attune itself to the array of emotions conveyed through language. It dares us to slow down, drop what we believe has to be done right away, and let the fires of the Holy Spirit enflame every activity and relationship in our life. For a world captivated in many ways by social media, the Letter of James proposes a bold code of conduct that contrasts with conventional wisdom – to listen before talking, and to rediscover virtue in moderation.
The Letter of James also explores the true source of anger. Wrath in the form of rivalry, revenge, and ridicule all begin with a single, untamed human tongue, a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” that can “bless the Lord and Father” one moment and, in the next, “curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God” (3:8-9). It is, in short, the tongue animated by sin that licks away at our strengths to feed our weaknesses.
The healing serum for our woes surfaces when we start to move outside our own wants to understand and meet the needs of others. It arrives when we stand ready to serve, like Christ, with doses of mercy, humility and charity in a world that prizes pride, pleasure and possessions. It finds true life not in staring at screens made by men but by standing before the faces of our fellow men and acting out of love and in the name of Love.
Sit with the Letter of James in July. Find in its pages a summons to accept, act, and adapt with courage and compassion the teachings and traditions of Christ and the Church. Permit its wisdom to arrive with a whisper. May it help you share with others what – and who – connects you to the source of life, liberty and happiness.
Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. You can find him on Facebook here.