Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37

First Reading: The words that we hear in the First Reading are neither the words of God nor of anyone who speaks for God. They are the words of the wicked, as seen by the author of the Book of Wisdom. As such, they are characterized as believing that life is short, that we were born by chance and we will soon be no more. Therefore, life is always ripe for revelry as we use our strength against the weak. But the response of Wisdom goes on to say that “they erred… for God formed man to be imperishable” and “the souls of the just are in the hand of God…”.

Psalm 54: Today’s psalm clearly echoes the belief of the Sage: the truth of human existence can only be found in relationship with the true God.

Second Reading: In today’s second reading, James returns to the topic of division, this time both within the individual and in the community. The cause is jealousy and selfish ambition. The jealousy James condemned had generated conflicts that he compared to war and murder.

Gospel: In the Gospel, the death that Jesus was going toward was politically and physically appalling. Religiously, it was considered proof of the person’s God-forsakenness. Jesus, seeing the disciples’ opinions about rank, declares that God is to be found where they least expect or want to go. The just one will suffer, but God will not abandon him.

Reflection: In today’s gospel passage we see an intensive seminar on discipleship given as Jesus journeys with his followers from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he will be killed. Mark frames his account of the Gospel around three predictions of Jesus’ arrest, Passion, death, and Resurrection. After each prediction, Jesus’ disciples either fail to comprehend or misunderstand completely what he is saying.

Today’s passage is the second of Jesus’ Passion predictions, given in the context of “teaching his disciples.” The disciples “did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.” Their misunderstanding is compounded as they argue among themselves as to who is the greatest. Mark’s irony is strong: the disciples have missed the wisdom Jesus taught and instead are caught up in their own selfish agendas.

Jesus, the patient wisdom teacher, affirms that to be first, one must desire to be last and servant of all. That lesson is concretized by taking a child, a symbol of the least and most insignificant, and asserting that attentiveness to the needs of the least is the measure of our greatness in the eyes of God. Such wisdom is indeed wisdom from above, demanding a change of heart in the way we see, understand, and act.

Today, we are no different from the disciples. How often do we fail to come to Jesus to question him so that we can understand the cost of discipleship? We are afraid to question Jesus about discipleship when we choose the easy way that is not discipleship: when we ignore the plea of others for help; when we only spend time with people in our own inner circle; when we harbor racial, sexual, or religious prejudices; when we . . .

Question for Reflection: What actions are the stumbling blocks to being a disciple of Jesus with my family, in my workplace, or in my parish?     ?

© 2015, Scott W. Eakins. All rights reserved.

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