“Ah! If a man had but one spark of perfect charity, he would no doubt perceive that all things are earthly things are full of vanity.” (IC 1,15,3) | “For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes. So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” (Jas 1:11)

Kempis closes his chapter on charity (1,15) with the words above, coming back to a frequent theme of his: the vanity of worldly things.

The closing sentence of today’s first reading (Jas 1:1-11) ties into this theme quite well.  The entire paragraph is excellent: the poor man should be happy in his circumstances (see Mt 5:3); the rich man should remember and embrace his lowliness since this life, too, will pass.  What does the wealthy person to which James refers lack?  Love (caritas).  He is too busy to notice the other and thus dooms himself.  I would be surprised if the writer of this letter did not have in mind Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (see Lk 16:19-31) when writing today’s Scripture.

Once again, Kempis and the sacred author together remind of us our duty to love one another (see Jn 13:34) and to not become attached to passing things that serve to turn us away from this “new commandment.”

I’m thrilled that we will be hearing plenty in the next couple of weeks from James, whose practical wisdom makes his epistle my favorite.

File:St. James the Less, by El Greco, c. 1595, oil on canvas - Hyde Collection - Glens Falls, NY - 20180224 121920.jpg
St. James the Less (c. 1595) by El Greco

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