My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Sometimes, the old-fashioned language and complex theological concepts of Scripture can make the Bible difficult to understand. Not so with the Letter of St. James, which has been appearing in the lectionary this week. I love the plain way James lays down the law, challenging his readers to treat those on the margins of society with honor and dignity. My initial response to today’s first reading was, “Right on, James. You tell those hypocrites who judge others based on wealth or appearance.” But I must hold up the passage as a mirror: How am I doing at loving the poor? Would James see my daily life choices and think I was living the Gospel? Am I really what Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, called a “man for others”? Perhaps sometimes, but not as consistently as I’d like. I still waste food and money, I turn away from a beggar at the subway station. The challenge of St. James is a stark one for all of us.
Help me to see your face in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the ill, the imprisoned.
When I’m tempted to think of myself as better than the poor, help me to imitate your special love for those who have been pushed to the peripheries of society.
Give me the zeal St. James had for lifting up my oppressed and beaten-down sisters and brothers. Give me the strength to work to change social structures that target the poor.
I pray this through Christ, Our Lord, amen.
—Mike Jordan LaskeyPlease share the Good Word with your friends!