Uncle Eddy's E-mails -- July 25
Saint James the Greater,
(entered heaven in 44)
I am not surprised that you lost another job (of course, I considered your caddying job a bit of a pansy position anyway – attractive just because of the perks). If a man can't control his temper, he won't be able to do much else. I am surprised, however, at your reaction to this latest setback. Your note oozed discouragement and self-pity. As if this was the first time you have had to confront your fiery temper! My word! By now, going into your junior year at college, I would have assumed that you had gotten to know yourself a little, and had the maturity to accept your shortcomings and move on to start dealing with them. If you are still wishing that you had a more mild personality, you are living in the very small world of self-deception (which the devil is quite happy about), and stunting the growth of both your character and your spirit. If you have a strong, robust, short-fused temper, it's not your fault; you were born with it, or acquired it through being spoiled or something. The fact that it's there is morally neutral (just as the fact that someone is naturally patient and charming and endearing is morally neutral); what you do with it, how you react to it, the way you channel and form it – that's what really matters, that's where you build character, and even holiness. Take today's saint, for instance.
James the Greater was Saint John the Evangelist's older brother, one of the three Apostles to whom Jesus gave special attention. But he was no saint when Christ called him. As a matter of fact, Jesus nicknamed him and his brother “Sons of Thunder,” which shows you how “meek” and “self-controlled” they were. One time, when a town in Samaria refused to put up Christ and the disciples for the night, the brothers asked permission to call down fire and brimstone to demolish the place – how's that for gentle, sweet piety! (Christ did not grant them the permission, by the way). Later on they even approached the Lord (actually, they sent their mother to approach him for them) to request the second and third ranking in his kingdom. How's that for calm and patient humility! And yet, it was men like these, impetuous and full of passion, whom Christ chose to be his intimate companions and closest collaborators. Their love for him and their desire to serve him gave them the strength they needed to build virtue by mastering their natural tendencies (I am sure the Holy Spirit helped out a bit as well). James ended up as the first Apostle to be martyred, and his dignity and self-control in the face of the trumped-up charges against him during the trial so moved the onlookers that his accuser became a Christian on the spot. As they walked to their execution together, the convert asked James to forgive him for turning him in. The Apostle looked at him, said “Peace be with you,” and embraced him. A far cry from the earlier fire and brimstone! That's Christian character formation.
So don't be surprised at your outbursts, and don't let them discourage you. Take yourself to the Lord in prayer, ask for the grace to imitate more closely his humility and self-control, and get to work on developing virtue. Then rest assured that, with the grace of God, you will do great things for the Kingdom.
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