Bridegroom of the Soul

Friends in Christ,  
In the 1st Reading today,  St. James rebukes his readers for their immoral life: You adulterers, he says! ‘Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?  Whoever is a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  

Here, he is not speaking so much literally about the sin of adultery, he is referring to spiritual adultery.  

The scriptures speak in many places,  of a nuptial relationship between God and his people.  Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other prophets  spoke of Israel as the Lord’s bride, but a bride that has become a harlot, chasing after other gods.  

In fact, the prophet Isaiah says to Israel: ‘Thy Maker is thy husband,’ and in the Book of Ezekiel, the Lord speaks of how he prepared this beautiful bride for marriage, and there he speaks entirely in wedding imagery.  But the Lord says, ‘you were captivated by your own beauty, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by.’  Of course Jesus himself is called the Bridegroom, because in Christ, God has come for his bride. And in the Book of Revelation, the Church is called the Bride.  

So –  St. James is warning his readers, that to lead a life of sin,  to allow passions to drive you to envy and jealousy and fighting and pride – disobeying God in this way is like breaking our marriage vow with the Lord, rejecting his Covenant.   

Perhaps the most famous work of St. John of the Cross is his “Spiritual Canticle of the Soul.” Composed mainly while he was in prison,  he uses the metaphor of a bride and groom separated and then reunited, to represent the soul and Jesus Christ.   

In many old prayer books you will find often this idea of Jesus as the ‘Bridegroom of the soul;’ regrettably, this idea is not often pondered today.   

So – what is St. James saying, in calling sin adultery? William Barclay says,  ‘it means that all sin is sin against love.’ It means that sin is infidelity, and that when we sin  we break God’s heart, just as the heart of one spouse in marriage is broken  when the other is unfaithful.’  

This St. James, who himself would be a martyr for Jesus – he is urging us to be faithful to the Lord: ‘Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. ‘Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 

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Fr. Luke Winkelmann

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