25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B – September 20th, 2009 Scripture Readings First : Wisdom 2:12, 17-20. Second : James 3:16-4:3.

Gospel : Mark 9:30-37 Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP 1. Subject Matter

In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus demonstrates the meaning of what authentic greatness is. He makes two points: first of all, that it is as a servant that a Christian finds greatness, and, secondly, that true intimacy with God comes only through humility. The whole pattern of the readings puts forward the passion and death of Jesus Christ as the fundamental pattern by which God is reconstructing the world from the inside, making the event of Calvary the center and navel of the universe. In the first reading, the book of Wisdom places on the lips of the wicked a speech in which they scapegoat the just man as a reproach to them and for that reason seek to destroy him. The book of Wisdom maintains that immortality, specifically that blessed immortality of unending existence with God (cf. Ch. 3), shall be the reward of the just man who perseveres. The author of the book of Wisdom seems to be heavily dependent upon Isaiah 52-66 for this treatment. The consequences to speak not only of the rejection of the just man by the wicked in general, but to place it in a specific and prophetic context that points to Christ’s own sacrifice on the cross. These words and words like them will be spoken by the enemies of Christ as they seek is destruction. The apostle James makes the point in the second reading that the worldly wisdom by which the world works, a thing of “jealousy and selfish ambition”, has been revealed for what it is by the heavenly wisdom which has come down with Christ, which is "first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” The apostle next brings forth the connection between the possession of wisdom and its peace, and the cultivation of peace in deeds, something which is apparently rather lacking in the community to which he addresses his words. He blames the disordered passions of Christians as the reason why they experience internal and external conflicts, and the failure of their prayers, because there are driven by passion, not the peace which flows from wisdom.

2. Exegetical Notes

As Jesus continues to move through Galilee, he instructs his disciples privately in what is to happen to him in Jerusalem. He is to be delivered up to death, but will rise again. The disciples, "do not understand," but at the same time fear too much what his words might mean to actually pursue their meaning with him. This is the second prediction of his passion in Mark. Jesus teaches his disciples that Son of Man must suffer and die, in contrast to the apocalyptic expectations of the time for the Messiah to be a victorious warrior king, who would free Israel from the Roman boot. The reference to being “handed over” in this second prediction perhaps introduces the notion of Judas betrayal, and Christ's desertion by the other apostles; thus making his own disciples complicit with Jesus’ Jewish and Roman persecutors in his destruction. Yet he will rise again. The second movement of the Gospel revolves around Jesus’ own definition of greatness as flowing from service as a servant. This is in fact precisely his own role, as he follows his destiny up to Jerusalem to die the death of a slave; thus, authentic greatness is in fact based on the imitation of Christ himself, who for our sake laid aside his divinity that he might put on our humanity, and might In this wise free us from servitude to Satan, to freely serve his Father as he does. Jesus "sat down" to deliver this teaching; the attitude of a Jewish rabbi, solemnly delivering authoritative teaching to his students. He considers this a crucially important matter. The third movement of the Gospel naturally moves to a discussion of that humility which is necessary to approach God. Variant versions of the same can be found at Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16; and John 13:20, which referred to the reception which should be accorded to Christ's disciples by those to whom they come. In the ancient world, children are people without power, and of little account generally speaking; therefore, the humility with which the disciples serve the those who are littlest end of least importance in the world are rewarded with the presence of Christ himself, and of his Father (and the presence of these two necessarily implies the presence also of the Holy Spirit); as the present gift for those who embrace this humility and wisdom, in imitation of Christ, the servant of all, is the possession of the indwelling Trinity itself. Those who are our Christ's apostles and leaders within Holy Church must receive the lowliest and least marginalized member of the community as Christ himself, if they wish in fact to dwell with Christ.

3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CIC 479: At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word, that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature. CIC 557: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem." By this decision he indicated that he was going up to Jerusalem prepared to die there. Three times he had announced his Passion and Resurrection; now, heading toward Jerusalem, Jesus says: "It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem." CIC 1825: Christ died out of love for us, while we were still "enemies." The Lord asks us to love as he does, even our enemies, to make ourselves the neighbor of those farthest away, and to love children and the poor as Christ himself. The Apostle Paul has given an incomparable depiction of charity: "charity is patient and kind, charity is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Charity does not insist on

its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (1 Cor 13:4-7). CIC 2737: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."26 If we ask with a divided heart, we are "adulterers";27 God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. "Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, 'He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?'"28 That our God is "jealous" for us is the sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard. … 4. Patristic Commentary

Bede the Venerable: This ignorance of the disciples proceeds not so much from slowness of intellect, as from love for the Savior, for they were as yet carnal, and ignorant of the mystery of the cross, they could not therefore believe that He whom they had recognized as the true God, was about to die; being accustomed then to hear Him often talk in figures, and shrinking from the events of His death, they would have it that something was conveyed figuratively in those things, which He spoke openly concerning His betrayal and passion. It goes on: "And they came to Capernaum." Theophylact: For His wish is not that we should usurp for ourselves chief places, but that we should attain to lofty heights by lowliness. He next admonishes them by the example of a child's innocence. Wherefore there follows, "And He took [p. 182] a child, and set him in the midst of them." Bede the Venerable: By which, He either simply shews that those who would become greater must receive the poor of Christ in honor of Him, or He would persuade them to be in malice children, to keep simplicity without arrogance, charity without envy, devotedness without anger. Again, by taking the child into His arms, He implies that the lowly are worthy of his embrace and love. He adds also, "In My name," that they might, with the fixed purpose of reason, follow for His name's sake that mould of virtue to which the child keeps, with nature for his guide. And because He taught that He Himself was received in children, lest it should be thought that there was nothing in Him but what was seen, He added, "And whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me.;" thus wishing that we should believe Him to be of the same nature and of equal greatness with His Father. St. Gregory of Nyssa ( On the Christian Mode of Life 8.1) Let vanity be unknown among you. Let simplicity and harmony and a guileless attitude weld the community together. Let each remind himself that he is not only subordinate to the brother at his side, but to all. If he knows this, he will truly be a disciple of Christ. The Shepherd of Hermes 3.9.29: They are as a veritable infants, whose hearts do not invent evil, who hardly know what corruption is, and who have remained a childlike forever. People such as these, therefore, undoubtedly dwell in the kingdom of God, because they in no way to file God's commandments, but have continued in innocence all the days of their lives in the same state of mind.

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

St. John Chrysostom (the Gospel of St. Matthew, homily 58.) If you are in love with precedence and the highest honor, pursue the things in last place, pursue being the least valued of all, pursue being the lowliest of all, pursue being the smallest of all, pursue placing yourselves behind others. Evagrius Ponticus, ( De oratione 34:PG 79,1173): Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer. St. Augustine of Hippo,( Ep. 130,8,17:PL 33,500): God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give. St. Martin of Tours (November 11) is famous for his willingness to live the lowliness Christ enjoins in this gospel upon his disciples. As a young man and a catechumen, while still living the military life, he was once asked for alms by a beggar; having nothing to give in coin, he split his military cloak and gave off to the beggar, despite the winter cold. Christ appeared to him in a dream, wearing the cloak; a thing which gave Martin much consolation. He devoted his life to making peace among Christians, and fact ended his life while trying to resolve the quarreling of the clergy of the Church of Candes. The Blessed Virgin Mary well exemplifies this gospel in her humble willingness to place herself completely at the disposal God's plan, as exemplified by her response to the angelic visitation of Gabriel, announcing God's plan for the salvation of the world: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word." Hence, of all the saints of God, she remains the greatest, and most highly venerated.


Pope Benedict XVI (in Boniface Ramsey, O.P, Tr.., In the Beginning; A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995, pp.75-76): The one who truly like God does not hold grasping lead to his economy, to the limitlessness of his ability and his willing. He does the contrary: he becomes completely dependent, he becomes a slave. Because he does not go the route of power, but that of love, he can to send into the depths of Adam' s lie, into the depths of death, and there raise up truth and life. The Son, who is by nature relationship and relatedness, reestablishes relationships. His arms, spread out on the cross, are an open invitation to relationship, which is continually offered to us. The cross, the place of his obedience, is the true tree of life. Pope Benedict XVI (Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith; The Church as Communion, Stephen Otto Horn, Ed, , Vinzenz Pfnuer, Ed., Henry Taylor, Tr. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005, pp. 204-205: in following Christ, evangelizing always takes first place: evangelizare pauperibus, - proclaiming the Gospel to the poor. Yet this never takes place through words alone: love, which constitutes its inner heart, both the center of its truth and the heart of its activity, has to be lived out and has in that sense, to be a proclamation. Thus social service is always associated with the Gospel Christ at a deep level … only when a person has been touched by Christ and opened up by him in his deepest heart can the other person also be touched in his heart; only in that case can reconciliation be affected in the Holy Spirit; only then can true community grow.

7. Other Considerations

The readings of this Sunday investigate the meaning of true wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit which is not so much something which informs the mind, so much as it shapes action (following St. Thomas Aquinas) by its connection and operation on the virtue of charity. The social utility of scapegoating is here revealed: the wickedness, evil and violence which search within the human heart inevitably attempts to release itself by scapegoating someone outside oneself. The sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis inevitably ends in finger-pointing, with a consequent presentation of that other person to God for judgment; a mechanism which at once redirects the anger and self-loathing of the sinner to the scapegoat, while providing a kind of self-absolution from blame. This kind of mimesis transfers the violence and destructive impulses of the heart to the chosen scapegoat, whose destruction short-circuits the destructive and self-destructive energies of the individual and community. The reading from Wisdom reveals this process this in the words of the wicked, who scapegoat the just man, a process that terminates in the sin and wickedness of the whole world condemning Christ to the cross. Paradoxically, Christ’s sacrifice destroys the power of the scapegoat mechanism by his own undeniable innocence, while every other human heart is revealed as implicated in the common and collective murder of Goodness himself. This is the end of archaic religion and all its false sacrifices, and of more modern forms of dealing with the problem of one's own guilty heart through dishonesty and misdirection.

Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Yonkers, Ignatius Press/ Magnificat 2006. New York: Magnificat: SAS, 2006. Copyright

Brown, Raymond E., S.S., Fitzmeyer, Joseph, S.J., and Murphy, Roland E., O. Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Two Vols. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968. Harrington, Daniel J, S.J. The Gospel of Mark Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 2: John R. Donaghue, S.J. and Daniel J Harrington, eds. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002. Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 Vols. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1979. Oden, Thomas C., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, Vol. 2, Mark. Thomas C. Oden, and Christopher A. Hall, eds. Downers Grove, IL : Intervarsity Press, (Institute of Classical Christian Studies), 1998. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected out of the Works of the Fathers. Volume II: St. Mark. Albany, N.Y.: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc., 1999. Tugwell, Simon, OP., ed. Early Dominicans; Selected Writings. Spirituality. New York; Ramsey; Toronto : Paulist Press, 1982. Classics of Western

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