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6th Week, Thursday, Feb 20th - Reflection & Liturgy


James 2:1-9 / Mark 8:27-33 
James talks about favoritism: Do not show favoritism to the rich.

Ray Bradbury has a short story about five poverty-stricken young men. Being about the same size, build, and weight, they decide to pool their meager resources and buy a handsome suit of clothes. Then, on the weekends, they take turns wearing it an hour at a time. The story describes how much better they feel—and are treated by other people— when they wear the suit. People smile at them, talk to them, and treat them in such a way that their spirits soar like an eagle in the sky. The story makes us ponder the words of James in today’s reading: “‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ But if you treat people according to their outward appearance, you are guilty of sin.”

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To what extent do we show favoritism? “Man looks at the outward appearance, but I [God] look at the heart.” 1Samuel 16:7
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The 1st reading is taken from the letter of St. James. If we had been following the readings from that letter since the beginning of the week, then we will also know that it is a letter that is downright straight-forward and it also uses every day examples to get the message across.

And in today's passage from the letter of St. James, if someone else were to say those same words, who do we think would that person be?
If we can remember some of the key phrases from the first reading: "do not combine faith with the making of distinctions between classes of people", "in spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor", "as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin and breaking the Law".
As we think about these statements, probably the face that might emerge in our minds is that of Pope Francis. Ever since he became Pope, his vision is a Church for the poor and a Church of the poor. And he has cleaned up quite a few Church institutions and practices in that direction.
Certainly, that is not anything new. Just that what was said by St. James in the 1st reading has been taken out of the closet and put into practice again. And it's making heads turn, and with approval and affirmation.
But in the gospel, when Jesus told His disciples that He was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected and put to death, His disciples expressed dismay and disapproval and Peter even remonstrated with Him.

The ways of God are often in contradiction to the way we want to think and to the ways of the world. But when the ways of God are followed, He will certainly show us signs of His approval.
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Thursday of 6th Week - LITURGY

EQUALS BEFORE GOD

Introduction
Our constant temptation is to look up to people in positions of power, wealth, influence, and to disregard the poor and the weak and to discriminate against them and also against half of humanity-women. It demands courage to associate with the poor and to stand up for their rights. The Gospel is not to be abused for social agitation to divide and polarize, for Christ came to save the rich too, but it demands social consciousness and involvement. The prophets and the Gospel – also the apostles – have hard-hitting passages about commitment to the poor and to social justice; we should do away with our tendency to deprive them of their impact by explaining them spiritually.
The Gospel tells us today that Jesus asked his disciples one day who they thought he was, and Peter said: You are the Christ, that is, the promised Savior. But when Jesus told them, he would save people by his suffering and death before his resurrection, Peter protested. He could not accept a suffering Lord. For us too, it is hard to accept pain and contradiction. We grumble and protest: “Why me?” But, we have to learn from Jesus that pain and hardship is part of life, and often the way to life and joy. People who have suffered for others understand what love means.

Opening Prayer
Lord God, merciful Father, your Son came to set all people free, to make the poor rich in faith and hope, to make the rich aware of their poverty. Unite us all in one trust in you and in one common concern for one another; give us all your attitude and that of Jesus, of not distinguishing between ranks and classes and sexes but of seeking together the freedom brought us by Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Commentary   
Speculation about the identity of Jesus ranged from the prophet Elijah to John the Baptist or one of the prophets. Peter makes a quantum leap forward in seeing him as the Messiah, the royal descendant of David who would restore Israel to a faith- filled and just human community.  Peter is correct, but Jesus gives messiahship a new and different meaning. This is a Messiah who must suffer, be rejected, put to death, and eventually rise again. This is all too much for Peter, and he attempts to turn Jesus’ thinking away from such a destiny. In a strongly worded rebuke, Jesus refers to Peter as “Satan” for trying to obfuscate God’s plan.  God does not judge things as humans do. In fact, the plan of salvation is in many ways quite alarming. So too, says James, is the way the kingdom of God is populated. Who can deny that we human beings revere rank and privilege? Yet, in God’s sight, these merely human marks of social status have no priority. It is the little people of this world, the needy of every society, who show openness to God’s love. Not entrapped by the transient values of this world, they are more open to God. There is a lesson here for a consumerist society. Our needs are not what modern-day profi­teers would have us believe. The modern world continually tries to convince us that we need more material things, but the glory of eternity is the good we have done for others.  We can never forget the parable of Lazarus, who sat at the rich man’s gate hoping for assistance. In the future life, the status of the rich man and Lazarus were radically changed. Wealth meant loss for the rich man, an eternity separated from God; and poverty led to true riches for Lazarus. We must not forget this lesson!   

Points to Ponder   
Favoritism
The desire for riches 
Concern for the poor 
The Suffering Messiah  

 Intercessions   
– For the Church, that it may not be ashamed of preaching the crucified Christ and of being self-effacing with him, we pray:
 – For the stragglers in life, for the little people “who do not count,” that they may not be trampled underfoot by the high and the mighty, we pray: 
– For those not adapted to life, for those whose ideas or conduct we do not share, that we may respect them and have a heart and a place for them, we pray:    

Prayer over the Gifts   
Lord our God, loving Father, by uniting us around this table and giving us your Son as our food, you remind us that you have made us responsible for one another.  Help us to extend our hands in love, without any humiliating condescension, to anyone suffering or in need, aware that we are all sisters and brothers of our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   

Prayer after Communion   
Lord God, Father of all, for you every person counts; you accept and welcome everyone who is willing to respond to your love.  Let every person who hungers or suffers wear for us the face of your Son and help us to share with her or him the bread of our poverty, that we may bear with honor the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.   

Blessing   
All are children of God… But let us all grow to become adults of God, whatever way we come, with all our differences and similarities. “I want them all to become one,” said Jesus. Let us become one in him, with the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.