Summary: Fail to correct your evil addictions, and lose eternally.
Thursday of Pentecost Week 2018
The epistle of St. James reads much like the preaching of an OT prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah. Today James is directing his admonitions to those who are rich and heartless. One can with the grace of God be rich and humane, rich and charitable, but riches themselves, or the love of riches, is a source of great evil. The problem here is that the rich to whom James addresses his sermon are wealthy because they don’t pay a family wage to their laborers. Their neglect of their employees is evil, not just because they are unjust to them, but because they are giving bad example to everyone else.
Jesus, who doesn’t say much in St. Mark’s Gospel, is very critical of those who give scandal like that. Cause someone else to think a bad action is acceptable, and end up wearing a millstone in hell if you don’t repent and make restitution. Fail to correct your evil addictions, and lose eternally. People who preach that Jesus never warned against falling into sin and ending up in hell forget about passages like this one. And it is our task, hard though it is, to charitably guide those who are sinning into repentance and healing.
One of the really awful realities of the Protestant revolution is that it succeeded because it was also an economic revolution. The English situation is well documented. Prior to the revolution, almost half of the farm land was in the possession of the Church and the monasteries. In some cases, the monks worked the farms and took care of the cattle, but a great deal of it was leased to the working poor. Generation after generation supported themselves on this common land and, of course, paid a percentage to the monasteries so they could live. Henry VIII suppressed many monasteries and turned out the monks. The land he sold to his barons, who were happy to extend their possessions at the expense of the Church. It cemented Henry’s position as monarch, paid for his wars, and gave the barons a reason to support his claim to be head of the Church. Who really paid for all this greed? The poor, who were then effectively slaves of the barons. Many could not support themselves, and either emigrated to the colonies or fled to the cities. Their cheap labor fueled the industrial revolution across Europe. It’s like James’ letter written in modern language.
The Church battled all this as well as she could, but she was fighting the war on multiple fronts. Remember that the Church had been crippled by the Black Death, and it had hit the university towns very hard, so the scholarship was inferior in many places, and tended to favor the rich and powerful who supported those scholars.
On May 12, the Church celebrates Saint John Stone, along with the other thirty-nine martyrs of England and Wales. He was an Augustinian monk, like Luther, but unlike Luther he was rigidly faithful to the teachings of Christ. “During the quest for supporters for the contemplated divorce of Queen Catherine, Stone was approached by the agents of the King. Being a Doctor of Sacred Theology, every effort was made to win his influence and to gain the weight of his opinion at the Council convoked at Canterbury; but he was resolute in his denunciation of the divorce as being contrary to the tenets of morality and justice. . . .On 14 December 1538 the Bishop of Dover Richard Yngworth visited Canterbury and called on the Augustinian friary with an order to close it down as part of the dissolution of monasteries in England. He found the Austin Friars to be in great poverty. ‘Their debts were £40, and their implements not worth £6.’ . . .As each friar was expelled he had to sign two documents: one acknowledging the king as supreme head of the church in England, and another declaring their surrender of their friary to be voluntary. John alone among his brothers refused to sign, and spoke in clear terms of his objections to the king's claims over the Church.”
John Stone’s name was placed at the top of the list of martyrs of the English Reformation considered for beatification. John Stone was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December 1886 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970. May his prayers strengthen us in our battle with the culture of death.