The first reading for today’s Mass comes from the Letter of Saint James and it instructs us to show no partiality in our dealings with others. “For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,’ while you say to the poor one, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil design….If you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we quite frequently do what St. James instructs us not to do. It may not necessarily be on the basis of rich and poor (although there is also a lot of that), but, I think we make distinctions all of the time in how we feel about and how we react to people who seem different from us in one way or another. There is a tendency to define ourselves in certain ways that exclude other people who do not share either the characteristics we have or the characteristics we have view as desirable. And so we value some people more than others and we are not as solicitious about the problems and needs of those we have defined as other and different.
Sometimes this operates consciously, but I think it operates just as (if not more) often at an unconsious level. So it is worth reflecting on our reactions to others and to try to grow in awareness of when we make the kind of distinctions that St. James is talking about.