TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In today’s second reading, James tells us that “evil cravings unchecked lead us into immoral behavior.” We see clear examples of this in the first reading and the Gospel. In the first reading, the wicked plot the downfall of an innocent man. In the Gospel, sinful inner cravings of the Apostles have them jockeying for the first place in Jesus’ kingdom. In this third lesson on discipleship, Jesus calls his disciples to a leadership style that finds its fullest expression in humble service.
FIRST READING: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about his upcoming passion and death. This reading is chosen because it speaks of the rejection and mistreatment of God’s servant. It also fits in well with the second reading which speaks of “inner cravings”—like jealousy and envy.
The people have an intense dislike for the Just One. His way of life is a condemnation of their own. His virtue shows their lack of virtue. Like the enemies of Jesus, they plan and plot to silence and actually kill the virtuous one. Their minds and hearts are so distorted and twisted that they see nothing wrong in their behavior. Unfortunately, this reading stops short of proclaiming God’s vindication of his servant (verse 22).
SECOND READING: James 3:16-4:3
James is addressing disharmony within the Christian community. The causes listed are internal. When our sinful inner cravings go unchecked, they can wreck the life of the community. Or we can say that the author contrasts heavenly and earthly wisdom. Wisdom from above is peaceable, docile and rich in compassion. It produces a rich harvest of right relationships with others. In contrast, earthly wisdom is self-centered, e.g., when one doesn’t get his/her way, he/she can become disruptive and divisive.
GOSPEL COMMENTARY: Mark 9: 30-37
This is Mark’s third lesson on discipleship. The true disciple is one who seeks to serve rather than be served. The Gospel opens with Jesus’ second prediction about his suffering and death. The disciples have no idea what Jesus is talking about. Their lack of understanding shows when they get into a discussion as to who among them will be the most important in the new Kingdom Jesus is about to establish. When Jesus arrives, they fall silent because they are embarrassed to tell him what they have been arguing about.
Jesus teaches another lesson on the nature of discipleship. He illustrates his lesson by standing a child in their midst. (In Aramaic, the same word is used for a child and servant.) Jesus then tells his ambitious disciples: “If you want to be truly great, you must learn to be humble and unimportant like this little child.” The best and purest kind of service is that rendered to the most insignificant members of society, symbolized here by a child. Jesus is also saying that false ambition is the desire to rule over others—which is very damaging to the unity of a community. True ambition, on the other hand, is the desire to serve others—which helps build a strong community. Here, Jesus does not condemn ambition but rather redefines it.
“If we were truly in touch with our giftedness and blessings, we would never suffer from feelings of jealousy.” Agree or disagree? Why?