jesus repeats to his disciples that he will go to jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again as messiah
Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), Sunday, September 23rd, 2018:
Jesus will be ready to make His final trip to Jerusalem when today’s gospel reading from St. Mark ends. Jesus will go to Jerusalem where He will suffer, be crucified, and die, and rise again on the third day. But Jesus has to give His disciples some remedial training first. Jesus has to re-instruct them about His Passion. It is difficult for them and us to understand. Our societal expectations clash with Jesus’s teaching of the necessity of personal sacrifice.
The disciples spend their energy arguing over who is the most important among themselves rather than try to understand Jesus’s second Passion prediction. So Jesus gives them a visual aid. It is a child. Jesus calls His disciples to serve the humble, the insignificant, and the unimportant. That child exemplifies the people Jesus wants His disciples to serve. The great reward for such humble service is the receiving of Jesus Christ Himself and God His Father. So therefore, there is no room in Jesus’s kingdom for the type of selfish ambition and aggrandizement His disciples are arguing over. In Jesus’s kingdom, ambition for the highest places is misguided and misplaced.
This is happening to Jesus’s very own hand-picked disciples because they are following their own concupiscence. They are following their own selfish desires and self-gratification instead of humility and wisdom. Self-gratification and selfishness lead to hatred and envy of others, false morals, heresy, division, and immorality. But God-fearing wisdom leads to purity, tranquility, modesty, docility, equity, mercy, and piety. Wisdom is practical and active and unitive. And the more wisdom unites, it promotes universality and salvation in this church. We are all asked to practice it.
This will be difficult. Consider today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom. The evil sinners will persecute the just man who submits to the Divine Will. They will do so because the lifestyle of the wise, God-fearing man pricks the consciences of evil people. So the evil people fall on the just ones, to attack them. The wise ones will live in accordance with God’s plan and wishes. The basis of human evil is personal choice. The relationship with evil is direct, involves deeds and words, grows into desire and friendship, and ends in a sinful covenantal relationship. That should sound familiar. It is familiar because the basis of human holiness is personal choice. It is direct. Holiness also involves deeds and words, and grows into desire and friendship, and ends in a holy, loving covenantal relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, in today’s first reading, the title of the just and wise person who follows God’s plan is “the just one,” and “the son of God.” Those titles speak of the close relationship between the wise and the just with the Lord. The just man has said that God Himself will take care of him and protect him. Eventually, that is what Jesus’s disciples will learn.
So what should we know? That Jesus Christ calls us to the same personal sacrifice to serve the humble and the insignificant that He called His disciples to serve. What should we do? We should surrender selfish ambition, evil desires, and self gratification and replace them with purity, tranquility, modesty, docility, equity, mercy, and piety. And why should we care? Because the reward for this type of service is that we serve Jesus Himself and God His Father. We will see them face-to-face in the little children, the poor, and the insignificant that we serve and welcome by doing good for them. Indeed, that will be the answer to the final test. On that day, Jesus will come and say to those who serve Him: “Come. You have my Father’s blessing. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me…I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me”(Matthew 25:34-40).
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