Today’s readings, which can be found in Track 1, here, all extol the virtues of humble dutifulness, informed by wisdom, in service of God’s righteous will.
For centuries, Protestants and Catholics argued about whether salvation is primarily “earned” (at least in some sense) through good works or whether it is a purely unearned grace given to humans who cannot make themselves, of their own accord, worthy of it. Yet what both Catholics and Protestants agree is that our mission on Earth – whether as a means towards grace or a response to grace – is indeed that of doing good works. There can be little doubt, indeed, that the entirety of the Judeo-Christian tradition is one that emphasizes our absolute duty to seek and serve wisdom and truth through a life of humility and service.
But one overlooked aspect of all this is that this life of humility and service, seen and experienced rightly, should not be seen as a burden. The key lines are from Psalm 1, with my emphases italicized: “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked…. Their delight is in the law of the Lord.” As the old line goes, “the service of the Lord is perfect freedom.” It is not burden, but contentment. As James writes, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace….”
And, as we know from other scripture, “the peace of God surpasseth all understanding.” If we experience that peace, it will be a joy the likes of which we cannot fathom in advance, but which is as great a feeling as human beings can know. That is why, when James writes that we should “draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” and when Jesus says in the Gospel reading that in welcoming a child we welcome him and in welcoming him we welcome the Father, we are supposed to understand that if God draws near to us through our welcoming attitude, it is not a small thing but the most wonderful thing that can ever happen to us.
The drawing near to God is a “delight.” It is a joy. It is wisdom redeemed. It is the best that ever was, is, or will be. And, even if we can never fully merit God’s redemption on our own, it cannot come unless our lives are grace-imbued, with loving, rightful actions.