“Be doers of the word and not hearers only,
deluding yourselves.” James 1:22
In today’s 2nd reading, James in his epistle to the early Church in Jerusalem, is reminding the believers and followers of the resurrected Christ, that faith is also a call to extraordinary action, such as in providing for the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, namely widows and orphans. This teaching is so important that the Apostles created the office of deacon to assist in their administration of the church’s needs including the distribution of food to widows and orphans. James makes it clear that the responsibility of this work belongs to everyone who believes when he says, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” The effort of providing for the needs of the defenseless in their mists is more than just charity or almsgiving; it is recognition that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and therefore family. In those days to be a widow was to be completely unprotected, if for example there was no male family member to take them into his household. Women held no station, they could not earn a living in a respectable or sinless manner, their sole means of survival was family. The widows in James’ letter refers to the women who do not have family to take them in, or maybe their family has simply abandoned them; or it is also possible that they were ejected from their household for being Christian. So, in this context James is acknowledging that the widow, as well as the orphan are also part of the Christian family, and as family, they need to be brought into the protection of the Christian household.
In our modern era, at least in our country, widows don’t face the same plight as they once did. Woman are not dependent solely on a male relative for their survival; they have means to earn their own living and make their own way if need be. Society has well established resources available to meet their earthly needs if circumstances require it. But we still have widows and widowers for that matter, in our community, who need just as much compassion from us as their historical counterparts did. They still need the protection of the community, not to fend off hungry but to stave off loneliness by bringing them some joy. Seek out these valued members of our Christian Family, and offer them fellowship as well as our prayers, to assuage their loneliness and broken hearts. Be mindful that they are not left alone to despair because no one bothers to even ask how they are doing. Devote a little of your time to share the fruits of your own life and invite them to Sunday dinner to share with your family. Don’t allow our brothers and sister in Christ to be part of the lonely, the abandoned and forgotten. It is in these kind gestures that we can live out our call to action as Christians; and as James puts it, “be doers of the word, not just hearers.”