I am finding the readings in the daytime Liturgy of the Hours to be full of nourishing morsels for the life of Lent. A single verse today, with cautions. Let’s read:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The biggest caution is this: Saint James is not providing an easy recipe for salvation. He is not saying, “Do this and you are saved.”
He is a son of a religious tradition (Judaism and early Christianity) that involves right practice (orthopraxis) as well as right belief (orthodoxy). We all agree that grace is the source of the human inspiration toward God–how we have been made, and how God plants desire into our hearts.
Once we have perceived great love from God, we are prepared to love others in turn. We focus less on the “stains” of the world–things like success, how to succeed, concerns about politics, and the like. The Church’s tradition is that we make real friends with orphans and widows and others in distress. They are not objects of charity, even if our charity is effective and well-stocked materially.
During Lent we do aspire to purity and “undefilement,” and making those real friends may well be a part of our seasonal practice.