23Sep 23 September. 25th Sunday

1st Reading: Wisdom (2:12, 17-20)

The cruelty of the wicked against good people

[The wicked say to each other],
“Let us lie in wait or the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Resp. Psalm (Ps 54)

R.: The Lord upholds my life

O God, save me by your name;
by your power, uphold my cause.
O God, hear my prayers;
listen to the words of my mouth. (R./)

For proud men have risen against me,
ruthless men seek my life.
They have no regard for God. (R./)

But I have God for my help.
The Lord upholds my life.
I will sacrifice to you with willing heart
and praise your name for it is good.(R./)

2nd Reading: James (3:16-4:3)

Jealousy, ambition, and self-seeking contrasted to gentleness, mercy and peace

Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your ravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Gospel: Mark (9:30-37)

After predicting his passion, Jesus calls us to be like servants of all

Jesus and his disciples came from the mountain and began to go through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”



Jostling for first place

We might expect better of the apostles than jostling for places. After spending so much time with Jesus, observing his simple lifestyle and hearing his words, how were they still so wide of the mark in what he expected from them. Jesus’ own life sets the pattern for us all. Though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6f.)

Mark reports Jesus predicting his passion three times within a short timeframe. The first time was in Caesarea Philippi just after Peter’s profession of faith (8:31-33). The second (today’s reading) was in Galilee just after Jesus had restored a man’s speech (9:30-32). The third was on the road to Jerusalem, when he spoke about leaving everything for the sake of the Gospel (10:32-34). Together, these three passion predictions resound like the solemn tolling of a bell. Jesus was steadily moving towards Jerusalem where all his work was to be completed. Of the three passion accounts the one today is the simplest and the most primitive. In each case his disciples misunderstood what he was trying to say. But they sensed that a new age was dawning and they wanted to be at the very heart of it; that’s surely why they were arguing about who was the greatest. They were are slow on the uptake because it was a hard message to take to heart, and that’s why Jesus repeats it on several occasions.

We gather in Church week by week, to pray and worship God together. We are Christ’s disciples in the world today, trying  to live as he wants us to.  As we try to live out the the Gospel in our daily lives, we know that we often fail, but with the help of God we start again each day. “If anyone wants to be first he must make himself last of all and servant of all.” This ideal of “servant of all” is vital, as Jesus’ own recipe for discipleship. He wants us to be willing to be of service of all. It remains part of following the one who gave his life for our human race. He valued each and every person, and changed their lives for the better. His followers must aim to do no less. To put it briefly, we need to serve others in the way Jesus serves us.

Welcoming his cross

The first reading sounds like one of the Psalms that evokes Christ’s passion or like a Servant Songs from Isaiah. In fact it comes from the Book of Wisdom, one of the latest books in the Bible, written in Egypt (Alexandria) and composed not in Hebrew but in Greek. The situation it describes, about a righteous person who is insulted, tortured and executed, is one that is not confined to the sufferings of the Jews. It is a situation that arises at all times. So the passion and death of Jesus, which he predicts to his disciples, is not in itself an extraordinary destiny. Many people are unjustly condemned and never clearly vindicated. Again, that Jesus dies as a martyr is not absolutely unique. Many have been prepared to risk their lives to resist injustice and oppression. What makes the passion of Christ unique is its saving role, explained in clear terms later in Mark’s gospel: “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). Many today find the idea of the death of Jesus as a saving sacrifice to be objectionable, as implying a cruel God torturing his son in order to avenge himself on humankind. But we need to let the message of salvation claim our hearts and our minds. Jesus’s life befits a Messiah, bringing healing and enlightenment and whose death offers salvation to the whole human race. God the eternal Father allowed his beloved Son to enter so deeply into our suffering, so as to save us “from within”. If we embrace the Messiah as the Word of God proclaims him, we will find that his life-giving resurrection also becomes credible.

The minds of the disciples are elsewhere. The question that bothers them in their discussion is which of them will have the highest place in the Kingdom. It even gives rise to a quarrel. It is easy to laugh at them, but the laugh is on us. Called to follow Christ, we worry about tiny advantages and securities as if Christ never was. Jesus appeals to the disciples’ ambition: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Indeed Jesus often appeals to our low level of thinking to inspire us with the ambition of imitating him, who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45).

He took a little child and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'” Today a wave of refugees sweeps across Europe. When we welcome these children we honour the Son of Man, who had “nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58). In welcoming others we are welcoming God into our lives. To welcome those who need us is also to welcome Christ himself.

The child is so important

Mark portrays Jesus as a strange and disconcerting Messiah. That is how Jesus was experienced by Peter and Mark reflects the stages of Peter’s gradual discovery of the Messiah. The life of Jesus unfolds as an enigma at the centre of which lie his Passion and death. That he comes from a modest, unpretentious background, that he presents himself without rank or title, without wealth or backing, that he makes no effort to command everybody’s obeisance by means of some great cosmic sign — all of these are already disconcerting enough. All limits are exceeded, however, when he announces a most sinister ending of his life as being on the way. He is going to allow himself to be arrested, insulted and crucified like a common criminal. Two great questions dominate this Gospel: Who is Jesus? (from 1:14 to 8:30) and Where is he going? (from 8:22 to 16:8). The answer — that he is the Son of God — runs through the entire Gospel, but like an underground stream that cannot be heard unless one listens attentively.

When a pope or bishop takes a little baby from its mother’s arms to raise it above the crowd, he is repeating something that Jesus did. This is not just a demonstration of kindness; it is a sign of the Kingdom and an indication of the values of Jesus. By this gesture, Jesus expresses something new. In the world of his day, only grown-ups deserved deference; Jesus gives it to the child. What is it in the child that merits this? Surely, it is that the child is full of joy and life, of spontaneity and confidence. The child is like Springtime, like the rising sun, the bearer of the future. Unless we become as little children, we cannot enter into God’s Kingdom. What a disconcerting Messiah Jesus is! He never ceases to astonish us.

Machtnamh: I gcoimhlint faoi na háiteanna is áirde (Jostling for the best places)

D’fhéadfaimis a bheith ag súil níos fearr ar na haspail ná mar a bheith ag dul i gcoimhlint leis na háiteanna is fearr. Cé gur chaith siad an oiread sin ama le Íosa, d’fhéach sé ar a iompraíocht agus chuala sé a theagasc, bhí siad fós i bhfad ar an marc ina dtuairimí ar stádas agus ar sheirbhís. Más mian le duine ar bith a bheith ar dtús, ní mór dó é féin a dhéanamh agus a sheirbheáil ar fad. Tá an teagasc seo i gcroílár an Soiscéil. Is é an t-oideas Íosa do dheisceabacht é. Fógra freisin cad a chiallaíonn sé NACH. Ní chiallaíonn sé go bhfuil suaimhneas Uriah Heep ann. Ní chiallaíonn sé tú féin a chur síos go léir. Mar sin féin, is mian le Íosa dúinn a bheith ar sheirbhís gach duine. Is cosúil le beagán ordú ard seo ach is cuid ríthábhachtach é a leanúint air. Thug ár máistir dá shaol dár gcine daonna. Chuir sé luach ar gach duine, fiú an ceann is ísle de na daoine íseal. Ní raibh sé amhlaidh i gcónaí ar an mbealach a raibh siad ag súil leo ach d’athraigh sé a saol níos fearr. Níor chóir a leanúna a dhéanamh níos lú. Chun é a chur ar an mbealach is simplí a dhéanaimid freastal ar dhaoine eile ar an mbealach a fhreastalaíonn Íosa dúinn.

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