23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, B18
The author of The Letter of James has as one main themes is “faith without works is dead”. He sets before his readers an example: “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves …?”1 Whom would you like to associate? With someone who is dressed in the latest fashion, has clean hands and combed hair; or, someone like Pigpen from the Peanuts (Charlie Brown) comic strip who radiates a very earthy look and accompanying aroma?
If we are being really honest our first inclination is to befriend the former and to ignore the latter. If we are trying to be real Christians, and are like God in God’s choosing “the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”2 , then what?
James’ insistence on the importance of the poor throws a unique light on the Gospel and the selection from Isaiah. Isaiah proclaims that God will someday open the eyes of the blind and clear the ears of the deaf. In the Gospel, Jesus does just that.
All that leads me to a question: Are we in need of having out eyes opened and our ears cleared? Who are the people as in the Gospel who bring us to Jesus to have our sight restored and our ears attentive to God’s call?
Faith is hard work. It’s like a three-legged stool with faith as the seat and the legs made up of community worship, individual prayer, reading and reflection, and service even when would rather not. Without one of the three legs, faith is out of balance.
It is somewhat challenging and disturbing, but “Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”3
Faith is more than worthwhile even though it’s hard work!
1 James 2:2-4.
2 James 2:5
3 Is. 35:4