Thursday, February 16, 2012

The poor sick person is Christ again made visible

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. - Saint Augustine

(James 2:1-9)
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality
as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes
comes into your assembly,
and a poor person with 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
and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.
Did not God choose those who are poor in the world
to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom
that he promised to those who love him?
But you dishonored the poor.
Are not the rich oppressing you?
And do they themselves not haul you off to court?
Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?
However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
But if you show partiality, you commit sin,
and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

I feel personally challenged by this reading. It deserves serious reflection by all of us. James is obviously writing about a human behavior which he has observed in this community. Showing "partiality" is something we've all been guilty of at some time, perhaps all the time. A wealthy person in our assembly gets more favorable attention than a poor person does.

Do we want to be "rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom" of God? Then we should decide to be "poor in the eyes of the world." Most everyone says they want to be rich in faith, but hope for a way to do it other than choosing to be poor. This reluctance shows that most people are giving "lip-service" when they speak of their desire for a strong faith.

"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of God" (Rm 10:17). If we want to be rich in faith, we should devote time each day to reading, praying, and studying God's Word. Nonetheless, few people persevere in daily Bible reading, although all say they want a stronger faith. Faith in anyone, including the Lord, depends on building a strong relationship through frequent, personal conversation. In other words, faith implies daily, committed prayer.

Faith flourishes especially in the context of daily Communion. Yet how few people center their lives on prayer and Communion! "All depends on faith" (Rm 4:16), and faith depends on God's grace. The Lord has chosen to pour out the grace of faith in the contexts of Gospel poverty, Bible reading, and daily prayer. How to be "rich in faith" is no mystery. "But when the Son of Man comes, will He find any faith on the earth?" (Lk 18:8)

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