Pope Francis must love this reading…and indeed the entire Letter of James. It offers us a compendium of practical wisdom for living out the Holy Father’s Gospel of Mercy. If someone is suffering and in need, we mustn’t just stand there. Rather, as James invites, get out of your chair, out of your house, out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone in distress. That’s what Pope Francis did when, as Father and then Cardinal Bergoglio, he spent time with the poor and downtrodden in the slums of Buenos Aires. It’s what he accomplishes as Pope as he hears confessions in St. Peter’s Square, makes phone calls to folks in need, and initiates practical Church strategies to meet “the poor” of all kinds…with whatever personal or spiritual challenges they face.
Of course we can pray for those suffering and in need. And, depending on our personal circumstances, that may be all that we are able to offer. The Letter of James—and indeed the example of Jesus—reminds me that I also have to get out of my chair, leave my house, and become not only a “hearer” of God’s word, but also “doer” of all that Jesus asks and invites…even if that means getting my hands dirty. Come, Holy Spirit! Stretch my heart. Send me forth as a messenger of your healing and hope.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team