Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Jas 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
The Collect of today’s Mass is where we are introduced to the lessons we are to learn from the readings. Collects are meant to unify us and that is why they are called “Collects”: they collect the various individual private prayers of the assembly. That is why a pause is to be made between “Let us pray…” and the beginning of the prayer. That is a time for the private prayers of those in attendance.
Then an attribute of God is called to our attention followed by an intention or purpose with which we should approach the readings. It usually begins with the word “that”, as in “in order that”. Then a favor or aspiration we need to realize the intention is asked. That usually begins with the word “grant.” Sometimes, like today, both follow successively from “grant that…” The Collect, then, gives us a shared sense of importance we should find in being at this particular Eucharistic celebration.
Today’s readings orient us to a God who graciously gives us a way of life ordered to self-forgetfulness and concern for the good of another for the others own sake. We pray to the God who founded His laws for us on the command to love Him and neighbor. That is important.
We then adopt the intention of keeping these laws and the favor of the power to do this so as to merit eternal life, i.e., freedom from self.
Mark’s gospel again calls us to distinguish between admiration and resentment. Resentment is the tendency to dismiss, belittle, and degrade positive, higher values that we cannot attain and to belittle and even oppress those who do attain them. Thus, it has its origin in a weak will; it isolates us in self.
Because of its value-distortion, resentment can be considered the number one obstacle to development in the spiritual life. It is well-described in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom. Resentment is an obstacle to our intention to keep God’s love-based commandments.
The Letter of James acknowledges the damage of resentment because envy is the chief ingredient in resentment. The Letter recommends the remedy of admiration of “the wisdom from above.” Admiration is the power requested to keep the commandments so as to merit eternal life. This wisdom is “pure, peaceable gentle, compliant, and merciful.” It is quite a to the interior experience described in the Book of Wisdom. Admiration is freedom from the bondage of self.
How do we get there? In the gospel, Jesus does the math. It is simple arithmetic:
The disciples have their own resentment. “The greatest”, the most important is to be determined by demeaning the other guy. So, Jesus introduces admiration.
They are to admire children, the least accomplished in their society. They are to admire how well children admire. Children are socialized, i.e. learn how to live lives based on love of God and neighbor, by admiring adults who do that. Resenting those adults would be quite counter-productive. My first job out of college was working at a juvenile detention center in Des Moines and I saw how impaired ability to admire affects kids. It’s ugly.
Elsewhere in the gospels we are told to become “like” children, but here we are told to “receive” the child…in Jesus’ name. “In my name” means the child, any child, belongs to Jesus. In that same line of thought, Jesus belongs to the Father and receiving the child is receiving Jesus and receiving Jesus is receiving the Father. In receiving them we are forgetting self, seeking the good of another, and keeping the Love Commandments. Thus, we merit eternal life. That’s important!
Admiration is where we interiorly, in the heart, put Christian principles before one’s own personality. So, admiration, compared to resentment, makes a difference. The ‘difference is important. The important motivates us.
If today’s gospel is false, it is of no importance. If it is true, then it is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
Imagine you’re a child again, about seven years old, daydreaming as you sit on top of a bed with your legs crossed in front of you. Kids want to have fun, to play, to be happy, to love and be loved. They can even make necessities into games. Have you ever watched how some children play with their food, like making a little volcano out of their mashed potatoes with a pool of melted butter in the center? Then they create an earthquake with a fork ripping open the side of the volcano to let the hot butter run down like lava spreading out on the ceramic valley below.
By contrast, the apostles in today’s gospel are daydreaming about greatness. Isn’t that what adults do? So, Jesus puts a child in the place of honor at his side. For this little one all that matters is to have fun, to enjoy life, to love and be loved. I think Jesus had to be a loving, playful person or children wouldn’t have been so attracted to him.
That’s the kind of greatness worth having: to work and love with a happy heart. Once there was a district nurse who served a rural area for twenty years single-handedly. People marveled at her patience, fortitude, and cheerfulness. She was always ready to rise in the night for an urgent call. Yet, her salary was quite inadequate. A friend protested: “Why don’t you make them pay you more? God knows you’re worth it.” She replied with a smile, “If God knows I’m worth it, that’s all that matters to me.” She was working with a loving, happy heart to please God.
St. Vincent de Paul was by temperament an irascible person. He said that except for the grace of God he would have been hard, repulsive, rough, and mean. Instead, he became a tender, affectionate man, very sensitive to the needs of others, especially the poor. How did he do that? He gave this profound advice: “Strive to live content in the midst of things that cause you discontent. God will take care of things.“
Today’s gospel reminds us that the greatness to which we are called is to be a child of God sharing in God’s own happiness. God’s delight for all eternity will be to play with us, spreading love all around.
So, during the next few moments of silence, imagine you’re kneeling on top of a bed and having a pillow fight with Jesus. Listen to him laugh with delight. Then get ready for the sacred meal he has prepared to show you his love. Let the taste of consecrated wine gladden your heart as Christ unites you to himself.