17 February, 2020. Monday of Week 6

The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order; St Fintan, abbot.

1st Reading: James 1:1-11

The testing of your faith produces endurance

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Let the believer who is lowly boast in being raised up and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.

Responsorial: Psalm 119

Response: Let your love come to me and I shall live

Before I was afflicted I went astray
but now I keep your word.
You are good and your deeds are good;
teach me your statutes.
It was good for me to be afflicted,
to learn your statutes.
The law from your mouth
means more to me than silver and gold.
Lord, I know that your decrees are right,
that you afflicted me justly.
Let your love be ready to console me
by your promise to your servant.

Gospel: Mark 8:11-13

Jesus refuses to give signs to his critics

The Pharisees began to argue with Jesus, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
May your words, O Lord be on my lips and in my heart. May they guide me on life’s journey and keep me near to you.

Problems that bring blessings

The word “blessing” suggests the happy fulfilment of our desires. When things go well we are tempted to take the credit for having earned our blessings. Self-assertion can lead us astray and over-estimate our achievements. Instead of depending on God’s grace, we imagine that blessings are earned by our own efforts. But really God’s blessings have their source in God. They are pure gifts.
St James speaks about severe testing, whether it be about our physical or mental well-being, our reputation, our fear of pain, of hunger and death and things like that. Every life has its share of problems: Either we are in one now, or we’re getting ready to face another one. It seems that God is working more on our character than our comfort. We can be reasonably happy most of the time, but that’s not the main purpose of life. We are meant to know, love and serve our God, and let the divine likeness grow in us, the likeness of Christ himself.
St James knew about the danger of discouragement when life is hard. So he encourages the oppressed Christian people, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials… so that you may be complete, lacking in nothing.” Instead of minimising their troubles, James wants them to find joy in spite of them. Even if we have reason to feel sorry for ourselves the “poor me” attitude should quietly be set aside. It is so important in times of trouble to try to have the mind of Christ!
James does not say that trials are easy, but that we can consider them in a positive light. Why? Because we need to learn patience in order to develope a Christ-like character. For example, a surgical operation is no fun, but we gladly endure the pain if will restore our health. In our spiritual journey, trials and hardships can form us in the image of Christ. To successfully journey through these difficulties, our best option is to trust God. If our thoughts are well focussed, good things will happen to us.
Authentic faith is not based on miracles. When some critics wanted to test Jesus and asked him for some heavenly sign, he regretted the weakness of their faith. As James has pointed out faith is authentic if it helps us through the trials of life. Faith enables us to steadfastly trust in God. Such faith helps us through dark times, knowing that the help of God is never far away.

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