Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (opt. Memorial); Saint Fintan, abbot (opt. Memorial)
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.
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. (R./)
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. (R./)
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. (R./)
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.
Blessings ssuggest comfort and joy, and the fulfilment of our desires. When things are going well we are tempted to take some credit for our blessings. Self-assertion can lead us astray and focus on ourself alone. Instead of depending on God's grace, we imagine we can achieve blessings by our own efforts. This we need to guard against. God's blessings have their source in God - not in myself!
James is here speaking of severe testing, threats to our physical well-being, our reputation, our fear of pain, of hunger and death, and things like that. Often, life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, or you're getting ready for another one. It seems that God is working more on your character than your comfort. We can be reasonably happy in life, but that's not the deeper purpose of life. The goal is to grow in spirit, in Christ likeness. For this, we need trials that test us/
James knows that discouragement comes along with heavy duty trials. And so he encourages the hurting people, "Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials… so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Instead of offering sympathy for their troubles, James wants them to find joy in spite of them. We may have reason to feel sorry for ourselves but this "poor me" attitude is not for Christians. It is so important in times of trouble to try to have the mind of Christ!
James does not actually say that trials are easy, but we need to consider them as joy! Why? Because facing difficulties is necessary to produce a Christ-like character in us. 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 into the image of Christ! To successfully journey through these difficulties, our best option is to trust God! If our thoughts are on the mind of Christ, good things will happen to us, says Saint James.
If faith is central to biblical religion, we need to keep our faith authentic. Today's gospel says that authantic faith is not primarily based on miracles. When some critics want to test Jesus and ask him for some heavenly sign, he sighs and regrets the weakness of their faith.
Saint James, whose Epistle we began to read today, points out that true faith it put to the text. It is authentic, if it helps us through every sort of trial. Faith that is tested makes for endurance and it keeps a person steadfastly holding on to God. It is not an arrogant self-confidence but a trust based on God's fidelity. Such a level of faith helps us through dark times, with hope for new life.