If my tomato plants seem to be too small, and I try to simply stretch them until they are big enough, I will ruin them. I have to supply the conditions under which they can grow on their own, taking in sun and water and turning it into the fruit.
Something similar is true about humans and human communities, from the family to entire countries and the community of all mankind. To regulate everything by exterior principles, by a multiplicity of laws and policies, is impossible and counterproductive, diminishing the interior freedom necessary to live well. Each of us needs to be orderly within himself, to have a healthy and peaceful human community.
St. James points to the passions as sources of all kinds of disorder among men.
The passions are part of who we are: it’s good and normal to be hungry when we need food and to be satisfied when we’ve had a good meal; it’s likewise good and normal to want recognition, success, justice.
While the desire for money, food, or pleasure can lead us to excess, often a more insidious problem is presented by desires, that clothes themselves with an appearance of justice and a deeper purpose: pride, ambition, jealousy… “We’re being treated unfairly, others receive more recognition or money from the Church. We can’t accept that.” Or “He began!… He is in the wrong. HE has to make an apology.” Or “They are completely wrong… they have to recognize and correct their mistake, before there’s any point in talking with them.”
What is the solution? The solution, or starting point of a solution is not to reject or repel one’s own desire for justice, but to put it in the context of service, which can sometimes recognize the “right” thing to do in giving in, even if the other person is objectively “wrong”.
That doesn’t mean being a wimp, or pretending that everything is just fine. Jesus says, “he who would be the first… should make himself the servant of all.” We are not to be the slave of one person, obeying and accepting everything from that person, but able to see behind a conflict between two sides, and despite various difficulties, look out for and seek the common good, the good of all.
Sometimes we make heavy crosses for ourselves in life with others, because we are simply in principle unwilling ever to give in or to give way. To be considerate, however, to have understanding for the point of view of others, even if we disagree with them, to make allowances for the weaknesses of others, to exercise patience and make sacrifices out of faith in God’s love, smooths our own way, and brings us closer to God’s kingdom, where he is all and in all.
(This is my homily text from the 25th Sunday of Ordinary time in 2015).