Tuesday of week 6 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on James 1:12-18

A lovely passage from James today.

It is clear that the Christians James is writing to are under strong pressures in the living of their faith.  As in our own day, there were the pulls of a society which set great store by material wealth, social status and influence.  In addition, there were the difficulties of living in a society where one’s Christian faith could bring harassment and persecution.  At times, it would seem much easier to abandon it and follow the crowd.

“Blessed” are those who can persevere in the face of such testing.  It is the “blessedness” that Jesus spoke about in the Beatitudes.  James praises those who come triumphantly through such times of trial and testing.  They will receive “the crown of life” that God promises to those who remain faithful to him.  The “crown” (stephanos, stefanos – from which the name ‘Stephen’ comes) was the term for the wreath placed on the head of a victorious athlete or military leader.  (One often sees pictures of Julius Caesar wearing such a wreath.)  In the Second Letter to Timothy, Paul is quoted as being confident of getting such a crown – “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:6-7, see also 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10).

However, James reminds us that no one should ever think that these tests or temptations come directly from God.  God can never be the source of an urge to do or say what is evil and wrong.

God himself, of course, cannot be tempted.  In a God who is infinite Goodness, there is nothing that could entice him as more desirable than what he already is and has.  Nor does he tempt anyone in the sense of leading a person to do what is morally evil.  Again because God is all Goodness such a situation is impossible. Of course, we may find ourselves in situations where our faith and integrity are challenged.  God does not prevent such situations arising.  But, if we fail, it is the result of our own choice.

This is the clear message of the creation story in Genesis.  The Fall was due solely to the choice made by the Man and his wife.  God is all good and the source only of what is good.

All our temptations originate in ourselves, in the various passions that drive us.  The passage mentions three stages – desire, sin and death.  These we see in the sin of the first woman and her husband.  We see the same in David’s infatuation with Bathsheba (cf. Friday of Week 3 in Ordinary Time).  This is something we have all experienced in some form.

On the contrary, every good thing we experience comes directly from the “Father of lights”, the Father who presides over the whole universe with its myriads of stars and constellations.  And, unlike them, he never suffers change or eclipse.  He is above all a creating God.

“He willed to give us birth by the word of truth”, that is, literally “he deliberately teemed us forth by a word of truth”.  The ‘word of truth’ is everything God has revealed to the human race; it is the supreme Law.  For us now, the word of Truth is the Gospel, the Way that Jesus the Son of God proclaimed.

And we are to be the “first fruits” of his creatures.  Just as the first sheaf of the harvest was an indication that the whole harvest would eventually follow, so the early Christians were an indication that a great number of people would eventually be born again.  This is our great responsibility towards the world around us.

It is through his Word, the Logos, that God brings forth everything that has been made and we human beings are in a special category.  For we are made in his likeness, in our ability to love and to know, in our ability to co-create with him.  So today, let us look at the sources of evil which are in us and see where they have been leading us.

At the same time, let us also count our blessings, become aware of the wonderful gifts that God has given and continues to give us every single day.  Let us also remember our responsibility to help in the building of the Kingdom, making this world a better place for all.

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