For our first reading today, we begin the Letter of St. James. James is one of those books in the Bible that it would be very good for us to be very familiar with. In the Gospel reading today from Mark 8, the Pharisees come to Jesus demanding a sign be given them. Jesus responds, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
James starts out his epistle with what may be one of the hardest sayings in the Scriptures to put into practice in our lives. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials…” Excuse me? Joy in trials? How much of that wine have you had there, James? But this is exactly the message of Christ. Remember in the Beatitudes where He talked about rejoicing and being glad when people persecute us and call us names and abuse us for the sake of His name? Yep, same principle.
This brings up an interesting thought. If we’re supposed to count it as joy when we encounter various trials, does that mean that we’re supposed to seek out trials? To TRY to get ourselves into positions where we will be persecuted? I don’t think so. Those will come along naturally when we just walk with Christ. But when they do come along, we shouldn’t kvetch and moan. Accept them, ask what we are supposed to learn and move on. Bring on the joy!
Father, you know how we so assiduously avoid trials and suffering. Help us to count them as joy and to learn lessons from all that we encounter. Amen.