The gospel reading for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time gave the first of three instructions which Jesus gave to His apostles: That if you are to be a follower of Jesus you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow in his steps. Today we hear from the second of His three instructions. Remember, the apostles are receiving these instructions in the sense in which they know that Jesus is the Messiah.
The Book of Wisdom is unique in the Bible as being the product of a Greek frame of mind, for the author is believed to be a Hellenized Jew (a Greek who is a Jew) thoroughly familiar with Greek culture.
Against the background of Egyptian worship of animals and mockery of Jewish trust in God, the author devotes much of the first part (chapters 1 through 5) of the book to the ineffectiveness of such mockery when God has promised immortality to those who remain faithful.
Although the book itself claims that it was written by Solomon, this is an example of the use of a pseudonym; a device often used in the ancient world to highlight the importance of a literary work – here the author used the prestige of Solomon, the greatest of the wise men of Israel. The book was probably written at Alexandria around the last years of the reign of Ptolemy Dionysius (80-52 B.C.), very close to the Christian period but before the Roman conquest.
Three weeks ago, and again two weeks ago, we heard from the first section of the 2 Epistle of James where he taught that accepting what comes from God means doing what He says and not being a respecter of persons or status. These teachings point to the need for there to be no discrepancy between what one receives from God and the way one puts it into practice. Last week he heard from the second section where we learned the central idea of his epistle: a faith which does not translate into good works is a dead faith.
Today we hear from the third section where Saint James tells us to recognize the source of disagreement.