Sunday thoughts: The letter of St James

By Monsignor John Devine

The Letter of St James is easy to read. But it is challenging. When preparing a Sunday sermon I rarely consider the second reading. These are continuous extracts from the New Testament letters with no direct connection with the theme of the Gospel. I start with the Gospel and then turn to the first reading which is chosen by the compilers of the Lectionary to reinforce the Gospel message. However, because James is the second reading, this September I will make an exception.

"Do not try to combine faith in Christ Jesus, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people." I make distinctions all the time. We all do. I judge those who read a different newspaper, favour a different style of liturgy, shop in a different supermarket. How do I react towards migrants?

James has strong words which might apply to the living wage: "An answer for the rich: Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting; your clothes are all eaten up by moths ... Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back."

Mark's Gospel for Sunday 13 September sees Peter making a deliberate act of faith: "You are the Christ." But the second reading from the Letter of James is characteristically forthright: "Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead." Faith alone won't cut it.

To quote Peter from another context: "Then who can be saved?" Good news can be found in the Gospel acclamation for the same day: "'I am the way, the truth and the life,' says the Lord. 'No one can come to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)