23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
|Original Image from Pixabay.|
This Sunday, the second reading will be from James 2:1-5. Be sure to read the other readings, for better context. It’s Lectionary # 128, if you’re reading from a hard copy.
Partiality is a hard thing to avoid. We all have preferences. We are partial to people who have similar interests and opinions to our own, and we naturally prefer to be around them, and we tend to take their parts in arguments.
Is this necessarily the kind of partiality that James is calling problematic?
No. Not necessarily. James means to address the problem of showing favoritism toward those who can give us something - who can do something for us.
And isn’t this something we’re all guilty of. Myself included. I’ve shown favoritism toward people who could help me get done what I wanted. I’ve preferred to be friends with people at work who could advise me on how to handle difficult coworkers.
What is it that makes this potentially sinful? It turns our eyes inward on our own needs and makes us turn a blind eye to those who need us.
As James pointed out in last week’s reading, “Religion that is undefiled comes from serving the poor, widowed, and fatherless.” (James 1:27) If anything, we should treat the poor among us better than the wealthy, because the poor are in need, while the rich are not.
We know the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, but do we act on them? Some of them are easy. We can pray for people every day. But how often do we visit the sick or imprisoned? Do we actually feed the hungry or only donate canned goods?
It’s easy to give when we can do it safely, from a distance. It can be harder to hold the hands of someone who is in desperate need and listen to them talk about their troubles - harder than donating canned goods, anyway. But this is exactly where Christ wants us. If we do show partiality, let it be in the favor of those who are in greatest need.
God our Father, who came to us in our need,
Help us to see first of all those who are in need: spiritual, physical, emotional, or any other kind of need. Let our attentions always be for them first.
Help us to know those whose need is greatest, and to be brave in reaching out to strangers. Give us your grace to know their needs and to minister to them with your hands, your mind, and your heart.