Scripture: Lectionary # 335. James 1:1-11. Psalm 119:188.8.131.52.75.76. Mark 8:11-13:
On this Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time we move to the New Testament for the first reading. The Epistle of James the Less, the Apostle is the traditional author of this inspired writing. “His mother Mary was a sister, or a close relative, of the Blessed Virgin, and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:19; cf. Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).” James was the first bishop of Jerusalem and was present at the Council of Jerusalem. He probably died in the early sixties of the first century and was a witness to the Resurrection (I Corinthians 15:7).
James is wisdom writer and his letter/epistle is an exhortation to practical Christian living. So we continue in the world of Wisdom literature which is also read in the Divine Office of Readings this week and next week. The Wisdom there comes from the Book of Proverbs and it is this genre that James is grounded in with his exhortative slant. It is a very helpful reading since it is so down to earth in its message and in its images and contrasts with what is good and what is evil. It is dramatic and colorful in these wisdom expressions seen through similarities with the wisdom sayings of the Old Testament and its strong contrasts with its themes and messages for practical living.
It is quite fitting that Psalm 119, the longest Psalm of 176, is used with this first reading from James as the Response. The Psalm is a wisdom psalm praising those who keep the laws of God shown through seven distinct words for the revelation of the precepts of God.
James emphasizes the virtue of silence, patience, and the gift of enduring faith which is to push aside doubts and live with our trials. The virtues are always framed within the broader concept of wisdom, a gift we are encouraged to pray for if we have not yet obtained it. Wisdom is a practical virtue which covers a large range of themes. It is the gift of seeing the bigger picture in the plan of God for the universe and for us who are creative agents of God’s redeeming love through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The doubter is compared to the surf tossed about by the wind.
James has a concern about the poor and contrasts them with the rich who do not reach out to them with help. The rich are “like the flower of the field which the sun scorches and the “beauty of its appearance perishes. So too will the rich man wither in his ways. Amen.