7th Week of Ordinary Time, Saturday, Year II

At the beginning of today’s First Reading James tackles how we should face suffering, illness, and good times: prayer. Prayer is not just for when we’re down; our prayer simply changes based on our circumstances. In good times we praise God, the source of all blessings. In times of suffering, we pray for strength to endure our trials and for healing. However, we don’t just pray for ourselves; our prayer in time of suffering is very powerful, which is why the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (alluded to in this passage), when administered, is a consecration of its recipient’s sufferings for the spiritual benefit of others, as well as a moment when the whole Church commends him or her to the Lord. Even if physical healing does not result, the afflicted person receives spiritual healing.

James also reminds us of the effectiveness of a righteous man’s prayer. The secret to effective prayer is to seek God’s will, to ask that it be done and to collaborate in its accomplishment. Elijah proclaimed a drought at the Lord’s command to punish Israel for its sins, and, when the Lord willed it, summoned the rain to end the drought. It wasn’t just his agenda. It is through this union of wills that we are able to seek out those who stray from the truth and sin so that they too can be spared spiritual death.

Whether physically healthy or not, spiritual health is the most important and we must strive to ensure everyone’s spiritual health. Let’s offer up our sufferings today and help anyone spiritually ill to be restored to health through our prayers, the sacraments, and a holy life.

Readings: James 5:13–20; Psalm 141:1–3, 8; Mark 10:13–16. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday.

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s First Reading James encourages the first Christians not to complain about each other, using the prophets and Job as examples to follow and warning them that if one party goes on trial seeking justice, both parties go on trial before the just Judge. Job and the prophets may seem to have complained at times about the situation in which they lived, but the true cause for their glory was that they suffered for the sake of truth.

Job suffered one tragedy after the other in his life, but other than asking why and arguing with his friends about whether it was God’s punishment for something he’d done (it wasn’t), Job never blamed God or denounced him for the evil he had suffered. Prophets almost invariably clashed with the political authorities of their time, since they’d been sent by the Lord with an unwelcome message, but they didn’t quit in the face of injustice or hardship.

When you are suffering, when times are difficult, remember that perseverance is precious in the eyes of God, and that is more important than anything your neighbor may have done to you.

Readings: James 5:9–12; Psalm 103:1–4, 8–9, 11–12; Mark 10:1–12. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year II

If Our Lord taught us to store our treasure in Heaven where rust and moth do not corrupt (see Matthew 6:19-21), James in today’s First Reading makes a call to conversion for the rich by describing the darker side of the coin: the consequences of putting treasures over people and not storing up the treasure that really matters, the “treasure” described in today’s Gospel of love and concern for others. For those who put wealth first, all their fine clothes and things will decay and vanish, and their real “retirement” account will be the outcry of all the people they’d wronged in the path to earthly wealth, an outcry that will be heard by the Lord.

The social doctrine of the Church describes the importance of everyone receiving what they need to live and grow as the universal destination of goods: “‘…The earth, by reason of its fruitfulness and its capacity to satisfy human needs, is God’s first gift for the sustenance of human life’ (Centesimus Annus, 31). The human person cannot do without the material goods that correspond to his primary needs and constitute the basic conditions for his existence; these goods are absolutely indispensable if he is to feed himself, grow, communicate, associate with others, and attain the highest purposes to which he is called. The universal right to use the goods of the earth is based on the principle of the universal destination of goods. Each person must have access to the level of well-being necessary for his full development…” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 171-172).

Let’s do an audit today of our time, treasure, and talent, and see how we can invest them not only for our spiritual growth, but for the growth and well-being of others as well.

Readings: James 5:1–6; Psalm 49:14–20; Mark 9:41–50.

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

James in today’s First Reading reminds us that career planning can only get us so far, because we really never know what the future holds. We can plan the perfect college degree, the perfect career, only to suddenly fall head over heels in love and start a family, be struck down by cancer or an accident requiring extended treatment, discover a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, or lose your job. Many people throughout the world today don’t even have a level of what we’d call normal stability, living in a broken family, poverty, or persecution and can’t even guess what the future holds for them.

Every good thing in our life is a gift from the Lord, and, as Job teaches us, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away (see Job 1:21-22). That’s not a truth to live in fear if we practice faith, hope, and love. God wills the good and helps us achieve it, but we can also help him achieve good as well by asking him what would please him. That’s why whenever we make plans we must be open to God’s will, knowing that he is a loving Father who has his children’s best interest in mind. Being in a Fortune 500 company or in a hospital bed suffering through chemotherapy are both opportunities to help others through our talents and our sacrifices.

Spend some time in prayer today considering the expression, “God laughs at man’s plans”; is there anything you’re planning for life that God may think is a joke? Ask him.

Readings: James 4:13–17; Psalm 49:2–3, 6–11; Mark 9:38–40. See also 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday.

7th Week of Ordinary Time, Tuesday, Year II

In today’s First Reading James teaches us that outer conflicts stem from inner ones. Wars rarely remain within the confines of where they broke out; they always strive to spread and conquer new terrain in order to fuel their ambitions. Similarly, our selfish ambitions don’t just remain in our hearts or in our living rooms; they put us on a path to clashing with others pursuing their own selfish goals.

As James reminds us today, that path only leads to frustration, because seeking vain things is seeking empty things, and if those things can never satisfy us, we will always be at conflict within ourselves and with others. It’s a recipe for endless conflict with no end in sight. Loving the world to the exclusion of God is a road to nowhere; if we set our sights on the world, we set our sights on something that ultimately will pass away.

Let’s ask Our Lord to help us strive for what really will satisfy us: love for God, which will also instill in us a love for others. It’s the only thing worth fighting for and the only thing that will fulfill us forever.

Readings: James 4:1–10; Psalm 55:7–11a, 23; Mark 9:30–37. See also 19th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.