Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
February 17, 2020
Today, in Mercy, in this week and a half before Ash Wednesday, we begin the Epistle of James.
This letter is one of the very earliest of the New Testament. Scholars are mixed about exactly which “James” wrote it, but agree that it was one of several who were very close to Jesus – perhaps one of “the brothers of Jesus” mentioned in several New Testament passages:
- Matthew 12:46-50
- Mark 3:31
- Luke 8:19
- John 2:12
- Acts 1:14
- 1 Corinthians 9:5
- and specifically “the Lord’s brother James” in Galatians 1:19
James writes in the style of Wisdom Literature, those Old Testament books that give advice, proverbs, and insights for living a holy life. His immediate audience was a community of dispersed Christian Jews whose world was filled with increasing upheaval and persecution.
When I read the following description I thought how germane James’s letter could be for our world today. His themes echo the teachings of Pope Francis for our chaotic time:
The epistle is renowned for exhortions on fighting poverty and caring for the poor in practical ways (1:26–27; 2:1-4; 2:14-19; 5:1-6), standing up for the oppressed (2:1-4; 5:1-6) and not being “like the world” in the way one responds to evil in the world (1:26-27; 2:11; 3:13-18; 4:1-10). Worldly wisdom is rejected and people are exhorted to embrace heavenly wisdom, which includes peacemaking and pursuing righteousness and justice (3:13-18).
(Jim Reiher, “Violent Language – a clue to the Historical Occasion of James.”Evangelical Quarterly. Vol. LXXXV No. 3. July 2013)
- Be joyful in trials. (Wait! What!)
- Let trials increase your perseverance not discourage you.
- Doing this is a sign of wisdom.
- When your wisdom is depleted, ask God for more with an open and trusting heart.
- Honor all people, high or low in circumstances
- Don’t be fooled by riches. They fade away.
In our Gospel, Jesus is frustrated with the Pharisees who insincerely demand a magical sign from him. They demonstrate none of the spiritual wisdom and openness to grace that James describes.
When we think about our own faith, where does it fall on the scale of sincerity, on the spectrum of counter-culturalism?
Music: Count It All Joy – Scripture Memory Songs