Jesus died naked – Tomorrow’s reading reflection


One cannot look at a cross, no matter how ornate, without remembering the painful death of Jesus. Yet the cross is lifted high on our churches and is worn as the sign and emblem of our victory over sin and despair, for Jesus’ resurrection is the pledge of our own future life. Like the rainbow the cross carries a message of universal salvation. The cross was the dreaded Roman form of execution; the rainbow is visible to every human eye, whatever the person’s religion may be.

St James helps us examine whether the universal saving signs of the cross and of the rainbow are operative in our own lives. He begins simply: “Your faith must not allow of favoritism.” We are not to value one people according to their wealth, power, prestige or social rank. Whoever operates by these false standards is liable to make “corrupt decisions.” If we return to the symbols of the cross and the rainbow, they present everyone as a human being created by God to the divine likeness. On the cross, Jesus died naked; through the rainbow we look on a world washed clean and appearing in its naked beauty. 

Returning to James, we find that we are not to be impressed by those who enter our company fashionably dressed, or despise those who enter dressed in shabby clothes, for in God’s eyes we are all poor and naked, beautiful and naked–and equal. We are what we have grown to be by our faith in God’s goodness and fidelity, by our imitation of God’s generosity and forgiveness.

Before concluding his critique of favoritism, James cites the injunction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” which Jesus calls the second commandment, and was repeated as a Christian principle by St Paul (Rom 13:9). These beautiful ideals are hard to put into practice, just as is the call to carry our cross with Jesus. It is little wonder that Peter took Jesus aside and began to remonstrate with him, until he had to reply abruptly and sternly “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus’ final words on that occasion seem to resonate in James’ epistle for today, “You are not judging by God’s standards but by human standards.” – “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”

(Adapted from ACP)