18th February. Tuesday, Week Six
1st Reading: James 1:12-18
(God tempts no one but is the giver of every good gift. He wills to bring us to spiritual birth.)
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Gospel: Mark 8:14-21
(Jesus is amazed at the blindness of his disciples.)
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
Practical ethics and the meaning of things
In today’s texts we hear James speaking aboutÂ gifts of lifeÂ and warning about the penalty of death; and in Mark the disciples are worried that they have too little bread, as they embark on a hard pull across the Sea of Galilee.
We find in James a strong tendency towards practical ethics, whether it be holding out in times of trial, or resisting the passions that can lure us into sin. But he bases his moral ideals on the gifts and benefits that come from the Father of lights. How else can anyone persevere till the end, unless by God’s special gifts of fidelity and patience, and that deeply rooted hope that only God can give. In this context we can interpret James’ final phrase: God wills to bring us to birth “so that we may be a kind of first-fruit of his creatures.” His grace, deeply rooted within our heart, induces the good fruit in our lives. If at times, we are left with unanswered questions, James wants us to remain listening, contemplating, wondering, seeking, and most of all just being in God’s presence.
In the gospel Jesus’ response to the disciples turns into a volley of questions so that he is surprised that his followers reacted as they did: “Do you still not see or comprehend? Are your minds completely blinded? Have you eyes but no sight, ears but no hearing? Do you not remember how I broke the five loaves..?” The gospel ends on the question: “Do you still not understand?”