Sunday Sermon for September 23, 2018, the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year B
Readings: Wis 2:12:17-20; Jas 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
In the second reading today St. James tells us that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. As we look around, we can certainly see an abundance of disorder and foul practices. However, to eliminate these problems, we need to get to the root of the problems. AS St. James reminds us, disorder and foul practices are really the effects of a deeper cause; we need to attack the jealousy and selfish ambition.
The first reading demonstrates for us the clouding of the mind that occurs when we give in to pride and selfishness that are the foundation of our other problems. We are told that the wicked want to beset the just one because he is obnoxious to them. It is amazing that the just person was simply living a good life and not being obnoxious at all. However, the just person’s humility and goodness convicts the consciences of those who have chosen the variant path and, rather than admitting their wrongdoing, they want to eliminate the person whose way of life is calling them to conversion.
It is interesting that these people who are plotting his death will even invoke the Lord in a ridiculing manner, essentially mocking the faith of the just one by saying that God will protect him if he is the Son of God. Of course, when the just person does not appear to be protected, this is used as proof that faith is weak or useless, God does not exist, or evil is stronger than good, which is why God could not or would not protect the just one.
We have all heard arguments such as these. Perhaps similar ideas have passed through our own minds when we have been mistreated and wondered where God was in the midst of an injustice. However, God allows bad things to happen to us in order to purify us and test our faith, hope, and charity. When everything is going well, it is easy to believe in God and in His goodness. When we are tested, it can be very difficult to practice the faith we were so proudly professing when things were easy.
The Lord wants our virtues to be perfected and the only way that can happen is for our virtue to be tested. If we were not allowed to go through trials to increase our virtue, if something really bad happened our tiny bit of faith would probably crumble in an instant and we would have no foundation upon which to stand. So, as difficult as it can be, we have to see the trials and tribulations of life as great blessings because of the help and increase in virtue they gain for us.
Above all, today the Church and the world need Saints. While the Saints are known for different works, all of them share two virtues in common: humility and charity. So, God is going to call each of us to do whatever He wills, but every one of us is called to humility and charity.
In the Gospel reading our Lord speaks of His Passion which, of course, the Apostles did not understand. But when the Apostles are challenged by our Lord regarding the topic of their conversation, they were shamed because their discussion was about who was the greatest among them. When they could not comprehend what God was doing, they turned away from Him and turned within themselves. Their pride, ambition, and jealousy led to a lot of disorder.
In an indirect way our Lord’s explanation to the Apostles reveals the motivation for His own actions, especially the Passion. He tells the Apostles they have to be the servant of all, the least of all; and perhaps what is most difficult, they have to receive Him as they would receive a child. If they could receive Him in this manner, they would, in turn, receive the One Who sent Him.
Our Lord’s actions were done in humility and charity; there was no selfishness and no pride in what He did, and what He continues to do, for us. This is what is needed today; we have to pray for and strive for humility and charity. When these virtues have been perfected in us we will have obtained the true Wisdom from above which is pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, and without inconstancy or insincerity.
It is only this kind of disposition that will touch the hearts of people today. People are wary and do not trust. They do not understand objective truth. God and faith have often been presented to them in a negative way. But humility will pierce their hearts and charity will fill their hearts and allow them to turn away from themselves and turn to the Lord.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.