Patience While Justice Works
I wrote this reflection during Advent of 2016.
The season of Advent focuses on having patience and waiting on the coming of the Lord. So, when we read this passage from James it seems to fit seamlessly in with the season. Without putting the reading into it’s full context, we could gather the obvious counsel to be that during this time of year we should be in a state of waiting and patience. For example, on an individual level this could translate into being more patient with family members and life happenings. I’m sure I’m not the only one that experiences joy, as well as stress, when family members get together. And I also know I could spend less time trying to do everything in the world and just pause to soak in the precious moments in my life.
But if we fly just above the clouds and see a little bit more of the context of this passage we get a different picture. We can see that this group of people James is writing to is having a hard time getting along with each other. And if we go a little higher to take in the full letter we can get the bigger picture that James is speaking specifically and separately to the rich and the poor people in the community.
Throughout the letter, James warns the whole community about slander, greed, violence, fraud, and showing favouritism. This week’s passage is the portion of the letter where James exhorts the poorer members of the community to have patience. If James hadn’t already warned the rich members of the community that they need to change their ways, then his words to the poorer members would be harsh. Fortunately, James speaks to the rich members first. He tells them their lifestyle of money and possessions mattering more than the welfare of others will not end well for them. This then makes the words of patience to the poor come as a hope.
Being in a community that follows Jesus means that our actions shouldn’t line up with the wisdom of the world. Our actions should not be centred around making as much money as possible and gaining as much material possessions as possible. Especially if it is at the expense of others. The gospel lesson for today shows us this much as well. John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the real deal. Jesus responded by saying “See how hard and often I have worked to gather up riches for my storehouses. I have used people as assets to get where I need to go in life. No one but me matters.” Oh, wait. That’s not it. Jesus said “the blind can now see, the deaf can hear, the crippled are walking, people are cleansed of their diseases, the dead are raised and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.”
James’ message to poorer people was in vain if it meant that they had to be patient and wait for the physical coming of Jesus, instead it is a message of hope because he is urging the richer people to change their ways and bring a present justice and resurrection to the whole community.