My Brothers you will always have trials. Faith is put to the test to make you patient. This isn’t news we want to hear. It has echoes of that old catholic tradition of saying this is a vale of tears. It also plays into good old Scottish fatalism. Life’s and uphill struggle to please a God who’s a bit like a demanding parent and for whom you’re never going to be quite good enough. So this is life as obstacle course and God is the drill sergeant watching you fall flat on your face.
But this isn’t what James is meaning. Trials are to make us “fully developed, complete, nothing missing”. In other words whole, all that we want to be and more than we can think of – more than we even think we want for ourselves. This is the wisdom that’s going to form the Christ life in us. So when we ask God for things (I ask God for a lot), is wisdom on the list? You remember Solomon was blessed because he didn’t ask for wealth or power or the lives of his enemies, but for wisdom. And James sets the bar high on what wisdom means, because he says, with wisdom you won’t ever be forever buffeted about by the waves of life – up one minute and own the next. That strikes me as a wisdom worth asking for.
With wisdom you know what’s worth setting your heart on – what really makes you rich or poor in the eyes of God, because for God it’s all topsy turvy and the poor man is to be proud that he’s got a special place in God’s heart, and the rich man can be thankful that God reminds him to be humble. We see each other differently with God’s wisdom. (we look at the world through our eyes). And this is what the Pharisees just don’t get in today’s short Gospel. They’ve just seen the feeding of the 4000, so they basically show up and say “Do it again!” or “Show us something else, what else have you got up your sleeve, Rabbi? Show us a sign”. But this sign is right in front of them, to quote James again: a fully developed human being, complete, nothing missing. The widow of God shown in utter humility. They just don’t get it, but we should. Jesus is the sign. Jesus is the Wisdom. Through all the buffetings we get and the testing of our faith and the test of our patience, his wisdom, if we accept it, is the Way for us.