25th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus teaches his disciples True Christian Service”.
Are we ‘great enough’ to be able to serve all of our brothers and sisters?
The first reading shows us that those who choose to follow the wisdom of God, the upright, are a reproach to the people who want to lead a life according to the principles of this world; often, therefore, the upright are persecuted.
The second reading is linked to this theme because it shows that the roots of wars, hatred and conflicts lie in the refusal to accept the invitation of Christ to serve and love our brothers and sisters.
The Gospel tells us that if one wants to be Jesus’ disciple, one must become like a little child and consider oneself the slave of all the others. The greatness of the Christian is to serve his or her brothers and sisters, particularly the poorest ones.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20.
The Book of Wisdom (first reading), written shortly before Christ, was probably a product of Jewish communities in Egypt. In speech of the wicked, we read an example of the verbal persecution such communities would have endured. It contains a section where evil men are reported to be plotting the downfall of the virtuous man. The speaker attacks the virtuous man, who belonging to Israel would have shared the self-understanding of his people as being God’s son (Hos. 11:1). Matthew would have this passage in mind when he described how the chief priests taunted Jesus as he was dying on the Cross, “If he is God’s son, God will take his part.”
The rich and powerful at the time of Isaiah lived by an adage, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall be dead” (Is. 22:13). This saying uttered by these godless people is constantly in the mouths of the materialists of all ages. These people were particularly numerous and noisy in the great and famous Egyptian city of Alexandria, where the author of the book of Wisdom lived among a rather large Jewish community. They were despising, sneering at, and even persecuting whoever did not accept their ideas.
The Jews, faithful to the Law of God, had, according to those Alexandrians, strange and foreign customs. The Jews were subjected to constant derision and vexations. Some of these ‘godless’ people formed a group that took pride in engaging in violent attacks and calumnies against the believers; many of these were former Jewish believers, who had abandoned their religion, joined the pagans, and turned into persecutors of their former brothers and sisters in the faith.
What irritated these materialists and godless most, was that the devout Jews led an honest, austere life, in spite of all their difficulties. They saw in such commitment to the Law of God, a constant condemnation of their wicked ways, corruption, vices and injustices. The tension between the two groups was on the increase and sooner or later, was bound to end in violent confrontation.
The reading tells us what the godless at a certain point decided to do: “Let us lay traps for the upright man… let us test him with cruelty and with torture … let us condemn him to a shameful death.” There is no doubt that what happened to the devout Jews of Alexandria, will keep happening to all believers of all ages. It is also easily apparent that what happened there corresponds exactly what happened to Jesus because he was upright, and proclaimed a message that disturbed those who used political and religious power to their own advantage and to oppress people.
The eye is made for light but light hurts the eye that is accustomed to darkness. The soul is made for God but the sight of godly living will cause a violent rebellion in the sick soul. Sometimes the just suffer precisely because they are just, and evil cannot tolerate such a witness. How then can wisdom literature suggest that the just are blessed by God? The book of Wisdom suggests that God’s justice is served in the life to come. God is just. Real justice will be something we will see in the Kingdom of God.
Psalm 54:3-6, 8.
In the Psalm, the persecuted man replies to those intriguing against him. They live only for this life and deny God. He lives confident in the help of the living God, who, in his goodness will deliver him.
James 3:16 – 4:3.
James makes all the usual connections: wisdom leads to justice and justice to peace. He also reminds his audience and us that desire is at the heart of all sin and leads to endless conflict. It is in every sense the ‘original sin’. Sin originates in our desire for more.
Greed leads to envy, and anger leads to a multitude of transgressions. James contrasts this downward spiral with the fruits of wisdom: innocence, peace, tolerance, sympathy and kindness. The interior conflicts aroused by desire are at rest in the one who seeks wisdom. The wise seek God’s way.
The Gospel of today comes after the ‘Transfiguration of Jesus’, witnessed by Peter, James and John. Jesus is now travelling through Galilee, but Mark tells us that he does not want people to know because he is instructing his disciples. This is Jesus’ second prediction to his disciples of his coming suffering and death. Again, his disciples misunderstand, and in their ignorance of the nature of the Messiah, they argue amongst themselves as to who will have the most important positions in Jesus’ kingdom.
The disciples found it difficult to understand that Jesus would be rejected and be put to death. How could anybody turn a violent hand on this good and merciful man? But it is a fact of life that anyone who stands up for an ideal sets off a negative reaction in others. Jesus will have to take time to instruct them as to his mission and what it means to be ‘first’ in the Kingdom of God.
Worldly ambition drives us to try to appear more important than we are. The disciples had strange ideas about the Kingdom of God. They have certainly not understood the implications of being disciples of Jesus. The continued misunderstanding of the disciples and their preoccupation with worldly honours, not unlike many of us, requires Jesus to command that they must become servants of all – as he was. In the face of such failure to understand what he is speaking about, Jesus sets a child in front of them, and invites them to understand what he is talking about.
Unlike adults, the child’s struggle is not for first place but for life. In order to live the child accepts the necessity of receiving everything from its parents. The fundamental attitude of the child is one of trust in its parents and of humility. The affection with which Jesus embraced the child was meant to teach them a lesson.
Jesus teaches them that the first shall be last, and that their attitude to each other should be like the way they treat a child – as someone to be helped and cared for. Nor should this be seen as a passing act of kindness, but as a constant awareness of other’s needs and a desire to fulfil those needs “in the name of Jesus.”
We have a living parable before our eyes as we gaze at Jesus’ loving embrace of the child. ‘Just as Jesus lived simply, poorly and trusting always in the Father who had sent him, even in the face of opposition, the disciples too should be ready to embrace his Gospel in all simplicity, poverty and trust’.
In the struggle for position and rank in many societies and even in our Christian communities, we can easily forget that the thing that counts most is to recognize that we are all children of the same Father, and that we must trust in him. Jesus offers a permanent challenge to his followers to welcome the powerless, and to take to heart the weakest members of our communities. He places himself in their company. Their vulnerability is something that Jesus not only shares, but values. As he takes the road to Jerusalem, his own vulnerability will expose him to those who lie in wait.
The central feature of our redemption through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is not the fact that he suffered so intensely. It is rather that Jesus was faithful. Because of Jesus’ dedication to the Father, he roused the animosity of the religious leaders of his time. They saw his dedication to the will of the Father somehow excessive, eccentric and dangerous to their comfortable lifestyle.
Jesus could have watered down his teachings. He could have proclaimed a heavenly Father who was less loving, less forgiving, less merciful, a Father more along the lines of what Jesus’ contemporaries in religious leadership would have been more comfortable with. The religious leaders saw Jesus as a posturer intent on making them look bad. So they took their cue from the book of Wisdom and ‘beset the just one and condemned him to a shameful death’.
Do we accept God’s teachings about the meaning of our human existence, about justice and about our responsibility for the moral quality of our lives and those of others, despite the pressures from the world and the materialists in our lives?
To be a follower of Jesus one must expect to share in his Cross and Resurrection.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Do we sometimes take offence against those whom we reluctantly consider more virtuous than ourselves because we feel guilty about our own lack of commitment to our faith and our sinfulness? In doing so we would behave in a similar manner as the materialists behaved in this Sunday’s first reading.
Mon. … Like the devout Jews in Alexandria, we too, must realize that we may be unjustly persecuted when we commit our lives to the ‘Way’ and must remain steadfast to our trust in God, despite all the difficulties we and our families may experience. Evil cannot tolerate witness to the truth, but love can overcome all evil.
Tues. … The Psalm, too, reflects on the ‘persecuted man’ by those who live only for this life and the ways of this world and deny God. In today’s world, despite all the crime and violence caused by desire and greed, we as Christians should live in confidence in the help and love of our living God. We may sometimes feel disgruntled and confused that the wicked throughout the ages seem to carry on unhindered. The book of Wisdom suggests that God’s justice is served in the life to come.
Wed. … James in the second reading puts before us two choices: God or the values of the world? Greed and envy leads to a multitude of sins in an inevitable downward spiral to satisfy the insatiable appetite for more possessions, power and prestige. The conflict for the possession of our souls is put to rest in the one who seeks wisdom and God’s way.
Thurs. … By giving us a child as a model, Jesus wants all his disciples and us to clearly understand that we, the Christian community, must place those who do not count by the standards of this world and the poorest at the centre of our interests. When we put these ‘little ones’ in the centre of our lives, we are putting God first in our lives, and carrying out God’s will.
Frid. … Humility and faith are blended together in Jesus’ call to a ‘childlike’ trust and faith in God as ‘Abba’. Have we established a ‘father/son/daughter’ relationship with God? We are truly his children. He created us through our biological parents. As our Father, God will guide us in the ‘Way’ to our salvation, to be with him always. We must therefore accept Jesus’ challenge to welcome the powerless and to take to heart the weakest members of our community, just as the Father takes to heart our weaknesses and difficulties.
Sat. … Do we still strive to be the greatest? Must we win at all costs? Jesus very explicitly in his teachings condemns this way of thinking. To be a follower of Jesus means dying to self and the worldly values which spawn jealousy and unhealthy ambition. Rising with Christ means living with the wisdom that comes down from above.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, help us today, through Your Word, to find unconditional love for each other so that true justice be attained through obedience to Your Law. We pray that You grant us ‘childlikeness’ and resolute commitment to carry out Your will. Enable us to love one another and so reach the eternal life You have prepared for us.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.