Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year B
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6-8; James 3:16-4:3; MARK 9:30-37
The first reading is from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom. This column gave a detailed ex-planation of the origin and purpose of the Book of Wisdom on the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and will not be repeated here. Last Sunday the first reading was from the second part of the Book of Isaiah, specifically from the third of four poems which our gospels use as foundational material to compose the Passion Narratives. These poems, call the Songs of the Servant of the Lord also strongly influenced the writings of St. Paul and other New Testament documents. Authors relied on these poems for insights into the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus because they interpreted them as “predictions” of what was to happen to Jesus. Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom, written sometime between 100-50 B.C., served the same purpose as the Servant Songs of Isaiah.
After the author gives a brief description, from his point of view, of the emptiness of the life of the godless, he presents their philosophy of life, their Weltanshauung, in a speech he attributes to them. The godless are described as bothered by the life of the virtuous man because it is such a contrast to their own way of life. “Let us lie in wait for the just one, because he is obnoxious to us, and opposes our doings.” We could say that the life of the virtuous awakens and disturbs the conscience of the wicked. In the following verses we hear echoes of our four Passion Narratives. “If the just one is the Son of God, God will defend him, and rescue him from the hand of his enemies.” See Matthew 27:43. The next verse finds echoes in the torture of Jesus during his Passion, “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test….” The next words, “that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience, find an echo in Matthew 11:29, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart….” The final words of this reading, “Let us con-demn the just one to a shameful death, for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” Matthew 27:43, “He trusts in God. Let God deliver him, if he wants him.”
The Responsorial Psalm (54) is a prayer attributed to David when he was fleeing and hiding from King Saul who was trying to kill him. The Psalm was selected because it reflects a theme of the first reading, the persecution of the just by the wicked. The Psalmist opens his prayer by appeal-ing to God’s pride, humanly speaking, “O God, for your name’s sake save me.” Meaning: “It will make you look good.” Then the connection with the reading from the Book of Wisdom,
“For the haughty men have risen up against me. The ruthless seek my life. They do not set God before their eyes.” After stating the petition, the Psalmist expresses his dependence on God, “The Lord sustains my life.” What will the Psalmist do if his life is spared? Surely something that will please God. “Freely I will offer you sacrifice. I will praise your name, O Lord, for its goodness.”
The second reading continues the series of readings from the Letter of James. The author con-fronts the people of his Christian synagogue with their faults. “Where jealousy and selfish ambit-ion exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” He compares these faults with “wisdom from above,” which brings peace, gentleness, mercy. He returns to the disorder, “Where do the wars and the conflicts among you originate?” The trouble comes from inside, “Is it not your passions that make war within your members?” He accuses them of envy and covetousness.” There is a better solution – prayer. “You do not possess because you do not ask. If you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask wrongly – to spend it on your passions.” A sorry mess!
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus & Co. journey on foot throughout his home province, Galilee in northern Palestine. This was a private journey, “He did not want anyone to know.” He was teaching his disciples some serious material which he had tried to teach them before. That attempt was part of last Sunday’s gospel reading – the first prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection. We saw how that was received. Simon Peter rebuked Jesus for his efforts, and got a devastating response from Jesus. Today Jesus brings up the same subject, “The Son of Man is to be handed over (betrayed), and they will kill him, and three days later he will rise.” Reaction of the disciples: “They did not understand the saying and they were afraid to question him.” After a teacher publicly rebukes the class president, caution is in order. The tour of Galilee completed, they return to Capernaum, the home of Simon Peter and Andrew, which was Jesus’ headquarters.
En route to Capernaum, Jesus must have been walking some distance from the group. He was aware that there was a spirited discussion among them. “What were you arguing about on the way?” Teacher must not know, therefore silence. But he knew, as Mark reminds us of Jesus’ more than human knowledge of humanity. They were arguing about who was the greatest among them. Why at that time? They knew of Jesus’ intention of heading for Jerusalem where his Passion predictions were to come to completion. There was still this idea among them of Jesus raising a rebellion against Roman occupation and setting up a kingdom in Jerusalem with himself as king. But who was to be the “prime minister”? Just like the first Passion prediction, so also the second prediction accomplished nothing in the minds of Jesus’ students. Another lesson follows. He pulls a child into their circle, embraces the child, and says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Meaning: “You completely misunderstand. What is to happen to me has nothing to do with royal or earthly power, but only with serving of others, like this child who cannot survive without those who take care of it.”