25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Vinner)
LIVING A SELF-SACRIFICING AND HARMONIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On this twenty fifth Sunday of ordinary time, we exalt Jesus Christ the son of God and the wisdom that came down from heaven to become the servant of men. The church invites us to listen to him and follow his examples by living a self-sacrificing and harmonious Christian life.
Our first reading today has many facets that are fulfilled in Christ. It points to Christ the Son of God, who would be put to death by jealous people. As a righteous man, Jesus reproached the Pharisees and condemned the Scribes as lawbreakers. He reproached them for their ungodly ways and selfish ambitions. For this reason, they took offense. He was mocked, tortured, and was condemned to death as a criminal. Like Christ, often times, we are persecuted by enemies and castigated by even our friends for doing the right thing. However, we must remain steadfast because God will surely come to our rescue.
Our second reading and gospel this Sunday help us to live our lives in harmony by focusing sincerely on the things that unites us rather than the ones that divide us. We all desire harmonious relationships, and yet many Christian communities, families and homes are marked by frequent conflicts. As much as conflicts are inevitable in life, we must not allow them tear us apart. So, James admonishes us not to allow conflicts and selfish ambitions destroy our relationships, families and communities. He reminds us that the root of most conflicts is selfish ambitions within us: “Where do all these battles between you first start. Is it not precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force…”
In today’s gospel, Jesus foretells his death and resurrection, rebukes his disciples for arguing about who was the greatest among them, and points to a child as a model for discipleship. Like the church that James wrote to, Jesus’ disciples were experiencing a conflict of interest, position and leadership among them. Even when Jesus speaks plainly, they do not understand because, there is such a great rift between their ambitions or expectations, and the predictions of Jesus. For this, they were afraid even to ask for clarification.
Also, instead of reflecting on what Christ was telling them, they were busy quarreling over who was the greatest. However, being God, Jesus knew their hidden ambitions, priorities and focus on their reputations. This is what we often see in any society, church, family, and anywhere that worldly ambition is considered more than spiritual ambition. There we see infighting, gossips, indifference, enmity, threats, evil plots, hatred, and all sorts of vices that both our first and second readings mentioned today. Wherever these exist, there can be no progress, prosperity, harmony or peace.
Therefore by using a child as an example for us today, Jesus is simply teaching us that we have to become like children in order to be great. Of course, this does not mean being childish or foolish. Instead, it means that we have to live our lives in humble service to God and to one another rather than being preoccupied selfish ambitions. Jesus is also encouraging us to be more focused on our inward lives. That is, on becoming more pure, more innocent, more humble, more accommodating and more trusting. Therefore, to be great is to be focused on something other than oneself. It means our ability to accommodate, welcome, and work in harmony with others just as children are always ready to do. It means readiness to accept the truth and, to reflect positively on them. It also means to be ready to serve and, offer oneself for the sake of others as Christ did, rather than seeking to be served by others.
1) We must become great through humble, self-giving service. Greatness, in Jesus’ view, is found in our willingness to accept and welcome and serve those who are considered unacceptable by reason of class, color, religion, wealth or culture. We must welcome people the way a child welcomes them before he is taught discrimination. If we are to be truly great, we must be ready to accept four challenges: (1) to put ourselves last, (2) to be the servant of all, (3) to receive the most insignificant human beings with love, and (4) to expect nothing in return. During the holy Mass let us pray for the true spirit of service and for an attitude of love for those around us. May the Holy Spirit help us to become truly great through humble, selfless service.
2) We need to practice humility in thoughts, words and actions. “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” “What is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ?” St. Augustine asks, and then responds, “I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility.” We should not seek recognition and recompense for the service we do for Christ and the Church as parents, teachers, pastors, etc. Trusting Faith resulting from true humility is essential for all corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Since children reflect the innocence, purity, simplicity and tenderness of our Lord, and since they are given the protection of a guardian angel, we are to love them, train them and take care not to give scandal to them. We need to try to treat everyone with love and respect because, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life” (St. Basil), CCC # 336. (L/18)
May God Bless us.
FR. S.Vinner HGN