for Sunday, September 20, 2015
Think how you might feel if someone came up to you and told you, face to face: I am going to try to destroy you! If it were someone that you thought would have no influence in your life, you probably would not be too concerned. But if it were someone important and powerful, we would certainly be concerned.
Think of how others would feel if you began to tell them: some people are going to come and take me away to kill me! Most of your friends would probably think you had lost your mind. Of if they knew that somehow you were actually in danger, they would give all kinds of advice of how to protect yourself or to flee.
The first reading today is from the Book of Wisdom and present just this kind of situation. A person is leading a good life and powerful people think that it is not true and want to test this. The powerful people are not doing good things in general and the good person is opposed to them. Even the Scriptures tell us that often the evil people triumph and the good are abandoned.
Of course that equation and understanding changes immediately if we believe in a God of love and justice and in a life in a world to come. That is why many people see religion simply as trying to scare people into being good. On the other hand, if we really do believe that there is life after death and that there is a God, then our way of living changes. We are able to accept suffering and rejection because we know that in the world to come, all will be straightened out. A belief in God and in everlasting life gives an incredible strength to be able to live a life of justice and love.
The Gospel of Mark today shows us the same picture of life. We can hear the followers of Jesus objecting to His telling them that He will suffer and die. They don't want anything to do with that. Jesus ends up telling them that the only way to live is to serve others. This does not always look like a good answer to people trying to kill Him, but it is actually the only way to live. And if we live in service of others, we will either be killed or die in that service.
The readings today paint a pretty strong picture of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. On the other hand, the second reading today, from the Letter of James, gives us advice how to live: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
Let us free ourselves from jealousy and selfish ambitions and fall into the hands of the living God. He will show us the way to lay down our lives in service of Him and of others.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Wisdom 2.12, 17-20
Second Reading: James 3.16 - 4.3
Gospel: Mark 9.30-37
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: