“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this…”
Thursday, 2 September 2021
The call for the just and merciful treatment of “orphans and widows” is repeated multiple times in Scripture (Psalm 82:3; Deuteronomy 27:19; Isaiah 1:17). In the passage from James, which we started looking at in yesterday’s reflection, the author characterizes as “pure and undefiled” that religion which concerns itself with visiting orphans and widows in their time of affliction.
The author(s) of the Letter of Saint James knew that orphans and widows were among the most neglected and vulnerable groups of people in the society of that time. The letter written for the early Christian community underscores the importance of showing faith more in action than words, and that charitable deeds should be aimed at the most marginalized, ostracized, and disregarded people Christians encounter in their daily existence.
Christians should show special concern for these “little ones” of society, many of whom are powerless to defend themselves against the authorities that oppress them. “Visiting orphans and widows,” Pope Francis said in his weekly Sunday address at the Vatican on 2 September 2018, “means practising charity towards others, starting from the neediest, the most fragile, the most marginal. They are the people of whom God takes special care and asks us to do the same.”
Who are the “orphans and widows” you encounter daily? Think of ways you can respond, even in small measure, to their needs?