Our Sunday reflections are being given to us by priests, Religious and some theological/philosophical graduates who have great passion for the word.
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REFLECTION FOR SUNDAY, 11th Dec, 2016
By Rev. Fr. Paul Adegoriola (C.Ss.R)
Be Patient … Until the Coming of the Lord
(Based on the Second Reading)
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11
An Igbo proverb says, “Starvation does not kill when one has hope to eat sooner or later.” The early Christians were a suffering people. On account of their belief in Christ, their own people, the Jews, disowned them. Because they would not worship the Roman deities, the Roman authorities accused them of heresy and treason and hunted them down, dead or alive. For the early Christians life was insecure and bereft of joy. And because they knew they were innocent, they longed for justice and vindication. Naturally, some of them would bow to social pressure and renounce the faith to save their neck. In today’s second reading, James urges them to be patient and courageous in the face of danger and suffering. The reason he gives them is: the coming of the Lord is near.
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (James 5:7-8)
James points to nature to illustrate his point that patience is necessary. The farmer suffers in sowing the seed. The same farmer will rejoice in harvesting the crop. Between these two moments, however, there is a long period of waiting. In ancient times, the period between sowing and harvesting is also a time of famine, since food was in short supply. Yet the farmer happily suffers this famine in the hope that harvest time will soon be there and food will be plentiful again.
Now, what does it mean to be patient? To be patient is to understand that my present suffering is meaningful and necessary. It is as meaningful and necessary as the suffering of the farmer waiting for the harvest. The justification for the suffering is in the good-times that will come in the future. The glory of the Lord does not come to us on credit, have it now and pay later. It comes to us prepaid. We pay for it in advance. Now is the time to pay for it, and our present suffering is the currency. People who do not understand this go about asking themselves, “Why Me? What have I done to deserve this?” Worse still they blame someone else for their suffering. James warns his fellow Christians to avoid the blame-game, to avoid trading complaints against one another as if their present suffering was something unnecessary. Believers who indulge in the blame-game betray their lack of faith in divine providence, and so make themselves liable to judgment.
Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! (James 5:9)
James reminds such grumpy Christians that the Lord is very near, “the Judge is standing at the doors.” It is the Lord who will judge everyone, the sincere believer as well as the insincere, and give to everyone what they truly deserve. He reminds those Christians who grumble against one another as being the cause of their suffering to focus on the glory of the Lord which is coming and not on their worldly comfort and social status which is disappearing.
Is the message of James relevant to our church today? Very much so. More than ever, we have many Christians who are grumbling against one another and blaming them for the ills that have befallen the church. Conservatives blame liberals and liberals blame conservatives, heterosexuals blame homosexuals and homosexuals blame heterosexuals, traditionalists blame charismatics and charismatics blame traditionalists, feminists blame patriarchals and patriarchals blame feminists. Advent is a time to remind ourselves that the Judge is very near, at the very doors. He it is who will judge and give to everyone what they deserve. As servants of the Lord we have a natural tendency to separate the weeds from the wheat. But we must endeavour to heed the explicit injunction of the Master: “Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30). Let both of them grow together! Shall we?