25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 5:00 Mass
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-4, 5,6 and 8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37
In today’s second reading, James presents two types of wisdom. The wisdom from above and the wisdom from below. Then he describes the results of each type.
First James speaks about the wisdom from below, which results in jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder and every foul practice. Something that has these results doesn’t seem too wise, does it? However, isn’t this “wisdom” the way of the world? All we have to do is look around to see that so many people try to gain power and status by stepping on anyone who may get in their way. This selfish ambition is obvious in today’s politics and it also runs rampant in the corporate world.
We even witness jealousy and envy raising their ugly heads within our families, our communities and even in the Church. Today’s gospel has a good example of this type of worldly wisdom. Jesus has just told his disciples about the coming reality of his death and resurrection, yet the Twelve seem to be more concerned with which one of them is the greatest than they are about the fact that Jesus has just plainly told him that he is going to be killed!
Having just heard Jesus speak of his willing acceptance of rejection and death, they are oddly preoccupied with jealous competition for privilege and prestige. Which of us is the greatest?! No conversation could have been more poorly timed and contrary to what Jesus was trying to teach them. Yet Mark does not display the disciples’ failures so we can marvel at their ineptitude. Rather, it is meant to bring us face-to-face with our human tendency to seek our own glory in competition with others, which is an obstacle to embracing God’s marvelous plan for our lives.
After speaking of wisdom from below, James then speaks of wisdom from above, which is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. Among other things, this heavenly wisdom tells us that in order to be successful we must think less of ourselves than we do of others.
Jesus tells the Twelve that they must become like little children, who in ancient times were on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Children in Jesus’ time had absolutely no rights and got no respect. They were viewed as nonpersons with no legal rights or status of their own.
Jesus’ teaching of becoming like a child flies in the face of the wisdom of the world, which manifests itself today though countless self-help books and feel-good ideologies which promote the false notion that only by serving ourselves do we achieve happiness. The idea that we are created to grow in self love and expression and that we should choose to minister to ourselves, first, above all else, is a lie wrapped in feel-good words from our modern, self-obsessed culture.
Dear friends in Christ, true happiness is found in serving others, not in serving ourselves. As Jesus clearly tells us in today’s gospel, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
When Jesus places the child in their midst and says “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me,” he is saying that to receive a little one is to accept, lovingly serve, and care for those who most need it and cannot repay it.
The implication here is that Jesus identifies with those who are most insignificant in the eyes of the world — so much so that he himself is mysteriously present wherever the least among us are welcomed.
Moreover, he says that to receive these little ones is to receive the one who sent me. Jesus is making an astounding claim: our treatment of the lowly, the “nobodies” of the world, is the measure of our treatment of God himself. This is wisdom from above.
So I ask you, which form of wisdom is your guide? Is it the self-centered wisdom of the world which tells you to first and foremost take care of yourself, doing whatever you must do to get ahead, even if it means disparaging or stepping on others?
Or is your guide the wisdom of heaven, which leads us to consider the needs of others before we consider our own needs?
Choose well my friends. Do not be deceived by the earthly wisdom of passing pleasure, power and passions. Choose the wisdom from above, which puts the needs of others before our own needs and requires us to take up our crosses in solidarity with Christ and in service of others.
Our life on earth is short and the choices we make now determine where we spend eternity. The choice is ours and no one else can make it for us. For heaven’s sake, choose to follow the wisdom from above!
God bless you.