Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing; Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.(P) The word of the Lord.
The God of Jacob keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets captives free. (R)
The Lord gives sight to the blind; the Lord raises up those who were bowed down. The Lord loves the just; the Lord protects strangers. (R)
The fatherless and the widow the Lord sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts. The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations Alleluia. (R)
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 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 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?(P) The word of the Lord.
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He told him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, "Ephphatha!" - that is, "Be opened!" And immediately the man's ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, "He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day a man who had moved to a new town struck up a conversation with a stranger on the street. He talked to the stranger about very many things. Then at some point, he asked, "Could you lend me one thousand dollars, please?" "No, I do not know you well enough to lend you any money." "Oh! That's very strange", the man said, "Where I used to live, people wouldn't lend me money because they knew me; and now I have moved here, people won't lend me money because they do not know me."
There are times in everyone's life when we feel ignored, unwanted, rejected, isolated and left out by others. Sadly, sometimes we treat others the same way too. We forget that we all have begun our life on earth as strangers, and all things belong to God.
In the Book of Leviticus, (25:23), in the Old Testament, the Lord Yahweh says, "Land will not be sold absolutely, for the land belongs to me, and you are only strangers and guests of mine." But as we grow older we tend to choose people according to our needs, likes and dislikes. We choose to interact with some people and avoid some others. Even though sometimes we try our best not to, we all judge and treat others according to their appearance - color, race, culture, religion, talents, work or life style. We give preference to one person over others with the same qualities whereas the Bible teaches us to treat everyone the same. One of the early Christian leaders who strongly discouraged favoritism, partiality, bias and discrimination was Saint James of whom we read in today's Second Reading.
The text is the continuation of the theme that we had read last week. Let us remind ourselves that the main subject of his letter is "faith must be active". According to James what we Christians do, must be in accordance with what we believe. Otherwise, he says, our faith is dead and not real. So throughout the letter James discourages any form of Christian devotion that appears to be superficial, and instead he emphasizes the necessity of accompanying faith with good works to receive the grace of salvation and eternal peace.
In last week's passage, (1:17-18, 21-22, 27), he called on us to gratefully recognize that everything that God has given us is good especially, "the word of truth" which could also refer to "the word of life", or "the wisdom of God" or "the word of God" that has come down to us through His Son Jesus Christ. He also exhorted us to humbly welcome the word of truth into our lives, to joyfully hear or read the word, and faithfully carry out what the word of truth dictates so that we might be saved. If we do not do what we are called upon to do by the Lord, James said that we are merely fooling ourselves. He also reminded us that our religiosity and our faith ought to be manifested fully in our life, particularly through our concern and love for widows and orphans in their afflictions. However, he clearly does not want us to limit our call to holiness by just caring for widows and orphans.
In today's text he further says, "Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ", James (2:1). What does it mean to show partiality? It means to favor or pay special attention to some people over others or treat others on the basis of their wealth, position, authority, popularity, looks or influence. As an example he cites two believers, one is rich in fine clothes and wearing gold rings, and the other is poor in shabby clothes, being treated very differently at a Christian gathering.
He criticizes them for treating the persons with equal claims for human dignity differently, and making a distinction based on their social class, position, wealth, prestige, or recognition. And then he points out three harmful effects of favoritism:
What is the message for us?
The text is a reminder for us that in God's eyes we are all equal and we are all the same. To Him no one smells better, looks better or sounds better or more important, more valuable or more precious than another. Since God shows no favoritism, we must be like Him and must not show favoritism either. Let us be careful to reject all forms of prejudice, discrimination and favoritism toward anyone based on economic status, race or anything else. Instead let us treat everyone with love and respect. We especially ought to be careful in how we treat people in community worship services, social gatherings, schools and other institutions. All must be welcome. All must be treated equally. All must be received just as they are and embraced just as they are. No one should be neglected or shunned.
Let us manifest the sincerity of our love for God and our faith in Him by acts of understanding, respect, compassion, kindness and love toward others regardless of differences.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!