25TH Sunday of Ordinary Time September 23, 2012
Today’s Gospel picks up where last week’s left off. Remember, Jesus and the disciples were at Caesarea Philippi. He asked them who people said He was. Then He asked the disciples who THEY said He was. Peter said, “You are the Christ.”
Then He told them that He would suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders and the chief priests, and the scribes. Then He would be killed and rise again on the third day. He ended by saying “Whoever wishes to come after me must take up his cross and follow me.”
This is pretty serious stuff but the disciples aren’t getting it yet. So, they leave Caesarea Philippi and take off through Galilee. As they were traveling, he was teaching them again what was going to happen to Him but they still didn’t understand. Maybe they didn’t get it because they weren’t paying attention. I know Father will agree with me, sometimes when we preach some of you might not be paying attention. Maybe you have something else on your mind. Maybe you’re tired. If you have kids with you, maybe they’re demanding your attention. Whatever the cause, we know when your mind is somewhere else. Jesus knew that the disciples weren’t listening to Him.
When they got to Capernaum He asked them what they were arguing about. They wouldn’t answer. But it was a rhetorical question. He already knew the answer. They were arguing among themselves about who was the greatest. Think about that! Yet again, He had been trying to explain to them what was going to happen to Him. He was going to be killed! He was going to rise on the third day; fairly important stuff. But they weren’t even listening. They were more concerned with which one of them was going to be the greatest! Even with the Son of God right there, in their midst, they were more concerned with themselves.
Guess what? He’s in our midst too. He’s present in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. He’s present in the words of the Gospel. Soon He’ll be present on the altar as Father turns the bread and wine, the simplest of all food, into His Body and Blood.
And Jesus doesn’t stop there. He’s with us every minute of every hour of every day. He’s sitting next to us here in church. He’s in the car next to you on the highway. He exists in every one of us. He shares our good times and our bad times. In the Gospel today He takes a child and says “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives Me.”
Why do you suppose He chose a child? That’s simple. Little children have no pride. They are who they are. I have four grandchildren age six and under. You’ll never hear them arguing about who’s the greatest. Their minds are like brand new computers. Their hard drives aren’t cluttered with junk.
When they sit down to a meal, they pray. “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts.” They don’t have preconceived notions about who this “Lord” is. They can’t commit a mortal sin because they don’t know what mortal sin is. They don’t need the sacrament of reconciliation…..yet.
The two older ones play soccer. They’re old enough to know the difference between winning and losing, but win or lose, after the game, they cheer for the other team. Their innocence is what Jesus is looking for in you and me.
The second reading is from the Letter of Saint James, one of my favorite books in the New Testament. Last week he told us that faith without works is dead. To show our faith, we’re supposed to actually help one another, not to just talk the talk, but to walk the talk. Today he warns us about jealousy and selfish ambition. He says that “wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Notice that he says “wisdom is from above”.
Education doesn’t make a person wise. It just makes you educated. There’s a big difference. In fact, education and wisdom may be opposites. How many people do we all know who have advanced degrees who are full of pride because of what they know. Pride and wisdom don’t go together. Look at Jesus. No one has ever walked the earth who was wiser than Jesus, but he was also humble. He didn’t go around saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m the wisest person you’ll ever meet.” He went out of His way to avoid the limelight. Today’s Gospel begins with Mark telling us that He was on a journey through Galilee, “but he did not wish anyone to know about it.” Just two weeks ago he healed the deaf man then told him not to tell anyone.
Jesus’ disciples were His closest friends. They were almost always there with Him. They had seen His works and knew that He was someone very special. Peter said “You are the Christ.” How did Jesus respond to that. He told them not to tell anyone. Then He tried to tell them what was going to happen to Him and Peter rebuked Him.
Think about that. Peter has just acknowledged that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah. Then he isn’t willing to accept what Jesus says. I’d say that arguing with Christ is about the most prideful thing a person could do. But, in the end, Jesus makes Peter the leader of His new Church.
I guess the point of all this is that you and I can’t spend our days playing in the sandbox. Life puts demands on us. We have to make a living. We have to support our families. We’re not kids anymore. We’re all so BUSY. But when it comes to our faith, Jesus wants us to be like children. When He speaks, He expects us to listen. Sometimes His message is a happy one; sometimes not so much. But whatever He tells us, it’s up to us to pay attention. He said He would be put to death and that He would rise again on the third day and He was and He did.
He also told us that WE would die but if we do what He tells us, we’ll rise again too. How sad would it be if we were too busy trying to build ourselves up here on earth that we missed His message.
I’ll be on retreat this week with the Trappist Monks in Kentucky. It should be easy for me to listen to Jesus since there won’t be any distractions. But sometimes I take my own distractions with me. Even in solitude, sometimes it’s hard to clear your mind and be open to the Holy Spirit. But I will try. I’ll read. I’ll pray. I’ll probably spend hours just walking in the woods. It will definitely be peaceful. But it’s not easy to turn the world off for four days, even in isolation.
It’s even harder to turn the world off in our normal, day-to-day lives. But that’s exactly what Jesus is calling us to do today. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it’s important that we take time to listen; today and every day. He WILL speak to us. He WILL show us the way.