The Letter of James


We’re reading at Mass for the next two weeks from the Letter of James. Is he a relative of Jesus and leader of the Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem as some say? Modern commentators aren’t sure who greets his hearers as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion.”

James was stoned to death in the mid 60s as the Jewish establishment turned against the followers of Jesus and forced many of them to flee. Jerusalem itself fell in 70 AD when Roman armies destroyed the city and crushed the Jewish revolt. Jewish-Christian exiles were exiled from their beloved city and would never return. Some commentators believe this letter contains an original letter of James sent to support the exiles and other material later added to it.

The letter opens with words of support. It’s tough to be thrown into exile, but tough times test your faith, so be brave, your faith will become stronger. God will give you the wisdom to know what to do; keep asking for it. But be “doers of the word,” the author of the letter says. Be practically concerned for others.

What does it mean to be practically concerned? The letter couldn’t be clearer about it:

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them,’Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?

Though the letter speaks of “a brother or a sister” as the one in need, it isn’t just a family member or a friend you’re called to care for. Concern doesn’t end with your own; it’s impartial and extends to all in need, even our enemies.

The letter surely isn’t directed only to concern by individuals either. Don’t countries and communities have to look out for the needy? “Don’t worry, work hard, aim high and good luck.” Is that any answer to the poor among us?

The Letter of James says it isn’t.

Some consoling words are given to the exiles, but not many.  The letter is challenging;  no relaxing of standards, no permission for self-pity. Keep your standards high, the letter insists and as the old song says: “When you’re down and out, lift up your head and shout: There’s gonna be a great day.”

4 thoughts on “The Letter of James

  1. Gloria

    “Angels in the sky promise that by and by, there’s gonna be a great day…”
    Great song. There are more lyrics, but I can remember them.


  2. Edward.Fullerton

    Fr Victor , I Thank you for these blogs ,particularly todays. I am sixty this year out of work. I cast my mind back too one of your earlier blogs people of my generation do not have the skills employers want. How does one get trained. The politicians are not interested ,neither are the employers. I hope God inspires me soon.What about that American who froze to death in ,New York city, your media was not interested.every time I receive the Sacraments Iinwardly recite a hail “Mary”.PS , Last night on TV over here their was a programme about benefit scroungers as the were depicted. A marist priest said to me and my brother the Normans are alive and well or words to that affect!.


  3. vhoagland Post author

    Keep in there, Edward. The lack of concern for the unemployed is one of the crosses of our time. The politicians and everybody else should be concerned about that situation. We need the right vision. Fr.Victor


  4. vhoagland Post author


    “When you’re down and out lift up your head and shout, there’s gonna be a great day.
    Angels in the sky promise that by and by there’s gonna be a great day.
    Gabriel will warn, some early morn, you will hear his horn, root in, tootin
    It’s not far away, hold up your head and say, there’s gonna be a great day.”

    That’s as far as I remember.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s