"If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:26-27)
This passage is very dear to me because in the lines before it so much is addressed about religion. I do not want a religion that is hot air. That’s all formalities and no spirituality. I do not want to be a “good person" or a "good Catholic.” I do not want to continue to place labels and rankings on my spirit and my heart in such a manner.
I want to be love and peace to the world. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. I knew that I wanted to seek God out for the right reasons. I knew that I wanted it to be a very personal journey.
I want to keep myself unspotted from the world’s temptations not because I stray from being good, but because I stray from doing good.
I want to be unspotted from the world because it pulls me away, not from my value but from my purpose.
Do not seek God for value. God is inside of you, your value is intact. It is only your purpose that you must seek to exercise.
I have a confession to make: I don’t know much about God.
You might think I do because I’m participating in this project dedicated exclusively to reflecting on Scripture, but I really don’t. The sections of the Bible? The proper way to pray the rosary? The Beatitudes? The lives of the saints? All mysteries to me.
I don’t even know the the Apostle’s Creed. When I’m in mass and everyone starts repeating the prayer on demand, I use a trick I learned years ago to lip sync to a song you don’t know. You mouth the word “watermelon” over and over, and nobody can tell the difference.
Because I’ve always felt like a newbie—an outsider, even—I kept away from “all the God stuff.” Getting any closer than the occasional Sunday mass would mean revealing my lack of God expertise. Like someone was randomly going to start a game of trivia or something.
But, one fateful day, I came across this quote from Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. that says:
“Knowing God is more important than knowing about God.”
When I read that, a rush of relief fell over me because I may have forgotten almost everything I learned in those Catholicism classes I took as a kid, but I never forgot how to pray.
Since then, I have prayed more than ever, in hopes of getting to know God better. Along the way (and almost by accident), I’ve picked up some “God expertise” for that surprise trivia game. But doing my part to know God—instead of knowing about God— is what keeps me unspotted, unmarked by the world.