Saturday, September 22, 2012
25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Wis 2:12, 17-20 / Jas 3:16-4:3 / Mk 9:30-37
WISDOM 2:12, 17-20
Let us set a trap for the righteous, for he annoys us and opposes our way of life; he reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false to our upbringing. Let us see the truth of what he says and find out what his end will be. If the righteous is a son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from his adversaries. Let us humble and torture him to prove his self-control and test his patience. When we have condemned him to a shameful death, we may test his words."
Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peace makers who sow peace reap a harvest of justice. What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings that make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want because you do not pray for it. You pray for something and you do not get it because you pray with the wrong motive of indulging your pleasures.
After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee; but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, "The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise." The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, "If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, "Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the One who sent me."
Today's readings contrast on the one hand our human tendency to exert our superiority over others, and on the other hand, the Kingdom of God, where, as Jesus puts it, the person who wants to be first has to make himself last of all and the servant of all. Power is not just something that is wielded by wealthy politicians or rich businessmen, but rather a basic motive that influences everyone. The desire to have things, to accumulate and possess material objects, is a deep-rooted drive in our human nature and so is the desire to control people and situations, to dictate or manipulate things to get the results that we want. Whenever people act out of personal ambition or push themselves forward, or try to manage situations so that they look cleverer, more talented or in any way superior to others, they are acting out of this basic power motive. Most of the time we do not notice it because it is so fundamental, it is second nature in our consumer capitalist society, where we are taught to value competition and to glamorize wealth and material success.
One of the basic assumptions in our society is that we all have an inviolable right to pursue our own self-interest. And that doing so successfully, getting what we want, and very often defeating others in the process, is the road to happiness. Conversely, people are often miserable and resentful if their desires are frustrated, if they end up "losers" rather than "winners." When human relations are reduced to a competition for power over each other, conflict is the inevitable result; and when this happens, we usually like to rationalize our real motives and persuade ourselves that we are doing something because it is right on principle, rather than just an assertion of our own will. Even with the people we are closest to, this power motive constantly comes in, and we play games, competing against each other in various ways, some less subtle than others. In today's gospel, this is what Jesus' disciples are doing.
The disciples were close friends, but even they were competitive: "Who is the greatest? Who is at the top?" Jesus' answer is to set a child in front of them and tell them to be like a child; but that does not mean he was recommending childishness or naivete. Jesus was advocating simplicity: being free from the calculating motives at work in so many adult relationships, and accepting the subordination and "smallness" inherent in childhood. Jesus' suggestion is not that some people should be willing servants while others take advantage of them. Jesus' teaching aims to create a situation in the Christian community where every member acts as the servant of everyone else, so that the power motive, relationships of superiority and inferiority, are abolished altogether.
What Jesus is recommending to his followers is that they adopt a mentality that liberates them from the sort of motivations that St. James talks about in the second reading: "You want something and you haven't got it... You have an ambition that you can't satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force." Being free from those motives is not being childish; it is being an adult with the right priorities and a detachment from corrupting influences.
To treat other people with kindness, compassion, and consideration, as St. James puts it, is more grown-up than getting our own way by honing our expertise in manipulative strategies, which only show how retarded we are morally and spiritually, how far we remain locked in the prison of our own selfishness. Of course, a mentality rooted in worldly ideas of happiness is never able to comprehend this. For people absorbed in the struggle to win and come out on top, Jesus' talk about deliberately making ourselves last of all and servant of all, deliberately choosing the role of service of others, is thoroughly bizarre. It is only when we have taken the first steps on the pilgrimage toward God that we start to see the need to embrace the qualities of service, willing powerlessness, smallness, which are so unattractive from the worldly point of view, as the means of enlightenment and closer union with God.
We know the ways of the world; we know that we and others as well are influenced by selfish motives. But under God's influence, our corrupt motives are undone, selfish patterns of behavior are unlearned. In that sense we gradually learn how to make ourselves "last of all and servant of all." As followers of Christ, believers in the power of God's grace to change our motives and our characters even in their most deeply-rooted tendencies, we are invited to look inside ourselves and to admit the extent to which we are influenced by the desire for power. The readings today invite us to turn to God and to ask him to free us from the will to power and to replace it with the spirit of simplicity and a "will to serve" instead.
We pray …
… for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the unborn.
… for the speedy recovery and healing of
- Fr. Ismael Zuloaga, SJ
- Luciana Ilagan
- Mon Torres
- Fleur Torres
- Ditas dela Paz
… for the personal intentions of
- Emma Quicho
… In Memoriam: Eriberta C. Calvario
… for the eternal repose of the souls of
- Bernardo Santiago Jr
Eternal rest grant unto them and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they and all the dearly departed rest in peace.
… for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Birthday: Tobit Gabriel Reyes
… for families who are in need of healing
… for world peace and reconciliation.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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