May 25, 2018
by Diane Jorgensen
Creighton University's School of Pharmacy and Health Professions
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 345

James 5:9-12
Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11-12
Mark 10:1-12

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

All this week we have been reading the Letter of Saint James, an exhortation filled with guidance and instruction to early Jewish Christians about how to live their new life in Christ, especially while awaiting the Lord’s return.

The passage we have for today, verses 9 – 12, makes more sense in the context of verse 7: “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord.” And verse 8: a rich image of the farmer who waits patiently for the precious crop, being patient both with the early and the late rains. The people are admonished not to complain, nor to judge one another, but rather to be patient and persevere. “You have heard of the perseverance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, because the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

The virtues of perseverance, patience, fidelity are undercurrents in the Gospel reading, where the Pharisees quiz Jesus to see how he responds to the question about divorce.

The first reading initially falls flat as a “pep talk.” Encouragement to persevere through difficulties may help with athletic training, earning an advanced degree or developing one’s musical talent because we can see the goal and are rewarded for our success. But in times of distress and hardship, remembering others who have persevered through trials or recalling our original purpose just doesn’t reach deep enough into our pain and suffering.

This raises tough questions. Why develop “staying power” in our committed relationships when these are the source of some of our deepest suffering? How do we continue to trust in God’s compassion and mercy in the midst of employment loss, tornadoes, famine, civil war, terrorism? Why persevere? What’s the goal, “the win?”

Sometimes there is nothing to hold on to but time-tested wisdom: maintain direction and commitments through difficulties unless and until it is clear God is leading elsewhere. It takes radical trust to “stay” when we don’t have an answer to “why?” or “how long?”

A return to the book of Job raises different questions: maybe the way to perseverance is not through developing strength but allowing ourselves to be more open, more vulnerable, more unprotected?  Perhaps “who?” is the better question than “why?” Who are my companions, my community? To whom do I belong? Who are you God? Can we trust that God is at work in others, in me, in every event, even when we can’t see or imagine where this is headed?

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