If yesterday's Mass readings conspired to send the message about taking on the mind of Christ, today's readings conspire to tell us that that "mind" has to show through the body. In other words, the letter of James and the Gospel of Mark take the very opposite approach from that of certain voices in our government. Those voices would assure us that it is wonderful to take on the mind of Christ, to profess our religious beliefs and even to express them in worship. As long as we don't bring them out in public through peculiar, presumably anti-social choices. James and Jesus, of course, see things quite differently.
Faith without works, James says emphatically, is dead. Religion that doesn't change your life, your relationships, your choices, is no more than the pagan religions of old: as long as devotees offered their incense or made the required sacrifices, they were in good stead. They were "religious."
A few weeks ago I was at a meeting of pastoral leaders. The subject of the day's discussion was how to awaken people to the necessity of Sunday Mass (in terms of today's readings, the barest of bare minimum expression of faith in the heart). At the suggestion of initiatives to help Catholics get a better grasp of what the Mass is, one participant spoke up: "They already know all that. They just aren't making the choice to act on it."
But I wonder.
Maybe those many (many) Catholics who have let go of any kind of regular Mass attendance could get straight A's (and maybe did get straight A's) on a school-type test about the Mass. Maybe they could tell you what the Real Presence is and why it is important. They "know" it. But do they know it's real?
I think that's the question that we can ask about the issues in today's newspapers, too. And maybe the controversy engendered by the HHS mandate provides us with an opportunity to show how "real" our faith is.