Bulletin: September 19, 2021
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s first two readings present a striking contrast between two pathways in life. In Wisdom and the letter from James we are told of the path of the wicked, which leads to oppression and violence. We also hear of the path of the faithful, which leads to peace and human flourishing. Then our Gospel reading from Mark takes our reflection farther. The choice is shown to be not so simple or obvious. The path of faithfulness means following Jesus’ lead, to expand our circle of care toward everyone, especially the most vulnerable. This path also includes opening ourselves to suffering and trials, as we face resistance from within and from outside us. The two paths essentially diverge over whether we refuse or accept God’s love. Each day we face such choices as God invites us into the divine circle of care and enlists us to extend our own circle to those around us.
WHO IS HONORED
Today’s Gospel passage has two parts: Jesus’ announcement again of his coming suffering and death, and a scene with the disciples arguing about who is the “greatest.” Mark places these scenes next to each other to emphasize the disciples’ failure to understand. Their petty argument was the opposite of what Jesus had described as the way to follow him. The disciples were following the common understanding of group status: to honor the influential and those who seem to contribute the most. Jesus points to the opposite: he honors the vulnerable, the “least” in the community; in this case, a child. And he honors those who welcome the child.
Mark was addressing his own community in the early Church, who were seeking to learn how to live their faith. His questions may be important for us too. Who is honored in our faith community, and why? How do we honor those whom we set as examples? Who benefits from this different kind of “greatness”?
ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS
Twice in today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples are reduced to silence. First when Jesus describes his future suffering and death, and again when caught in their argument about who is the greatest. Perhaps they were afraid to really understand his teachings because of what it might cost them. Maybe they were afraid of being seen as ignorant by Jesus and especially by each other. What if they had dared to admit their confusion and ignorance and asked Jesus hard questions? Would Jesus have welcomed them?
Jesus presents a child who is to be welcomed and embraced. The child sets an example: it is the child who knows that he or she doesn’t know. The child is free to ask “childlike” questions, and is open to answers. What if, in the intimacy of our prayer, we asked Jesus our own hard, embarrassing questions: about life, about ourselves and our relationships, about God? How might our relationship with God then change?