THERE WAS NO FAVORITISM OR DISCRIMINATION AT CALVARY
(A biblical refection on THE 23rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – September 6, 2015)
Second Reading: James 2:1-5
First Reading: Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalms: Psalm 146:7-10; Gospel Reading: Mark 7:31-37
My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? (James 2:1-5 RSV)
Let us start with a lesson from history. In 1850, a Steubenville, Ohio lawyer, Edwin Stanton, and his associates requested the legal services of Abraham Lincoln, the competent lawyer from Springfield, Illinois to assist in an infringement of patent case in Cincinnati. When the two men were introduced, Stanton greeted him coldly and blatantly ignored him throughout the case. He even whispered to others in Lincoln’s presence, “I won’t associate with such a long-armed gawky ape as that.” Twelve years later, Stanton was appointed Secretary of War by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Three years later, he stood at Lincoln’s bedside during his dying hours, pitifully weeping at the loss of his dear friend. If we must judge others, it’s wise to avoid bitter words; for like Stanton, we may later have to eat them.
St. James says in today’s second reading, that it’s so easy but so wrong to judge another by outward appearances. This passage is a vivid reminder to avoid both favoritism and discrimination. No one, for instance, should be given a promotion, honor or better position in a company, simply because he’s someone’s friend or relative or because he looks nice, dresses well or is a certain color.
Could we (you and I) imagine a judge in a courtroom condemning an alleged criminal on his looks, clothes or neighborhood? Each case should be judged in itself and of itself, here and now.
If you – like Lincoln – are judged unjustly, you shouldn’t fret too much, for you’re in good company. His neighbors thought that young Thomas Edison was insane. When Albert Einstein failed his college entrance exam, he was judged stupid and sent home. Even Jesus was called a fanatic and a lawbreaker.
Inspired by God who “judges the world with righteousness and judges the peoples with equity” (Psalm 9:8 RSV), we must extent that same balanced treatment to all. Whether it’s the fashionable clothes and gold rings of the rich, or the shabby garb of the poor, they’re only externals worn by those for whom Jesus died. There was no favoritism or discrimination at Calvary.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, today You remind me to strongly avoid any forms of favoritism and discrimination in my relationships with others. And, there was no favoritism or discrimination at Calvary. Keep me as a faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 September 2015
A Christian Pilgrim