It’s been interesting to me this week about how the letter of James has served to underscore Jesus’ teachings from the Gospel of Mark. On weekends, the first reading and Gospel are selected to go together, but during the week that’s not always the case. But this week, James and Mark have been boldly proclaiming some needed virtues in the Christian disciple. Today’s virtue seems to be one of integrity.
I say integrity because both passages are strongly cautioning all of us to make the right decision and then live accordingly, persevering with our conscience. James tells us to stop complaining about one another so as to avoid judgment, and then to persevere as the ancient prophets did. Finally, we are to avoid swearing under oath, instead letting our “yes” or “no” mean exactly what they sound like, and not to say one thing and do another.
Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees in the Gospel reading, and it’s important to understand that he was not giving them marriage counseling, because that’s not what they asked for. They seemed to be asking a question about divorce and whether or not it should be allowed, but what they were really trying to do was to get him to say something against Moses and thus prove himself to be a charlatan. But he doesn’t play their game, and instead reminded them of Moses’ own words regarding the permanence of the marriage bond. They wanted to use a loophole in Moses’ teaching to get him tripped up, but instead he trips them up by reminding them of what Moses really taught. The Christian disciple doesn’t need loopholes: she or he lives the Gospel in integrity.