25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wis 2:12, 17-20
The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he
is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for
transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to
him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver
him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may
have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a
shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8
R. (6b)The Lord upholds my life.
O God, by your name save me,
and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.
R. The Lord upholds my life.
For the haughty men have risen up against me,
the ruthless seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.
R. The Lord upholds my life.
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.
Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.
R. The Lord upholds my life.
Beloved: 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.
Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a
journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was
teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed
over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son
of Man will rise." But they did not understand the saying, and they were
afraid to question him.
came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What
were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been
discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat
down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he
shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Taking a child, he placed
it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and
whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me."
had been to a house to visit. Normally we visited houses in the evening and
that is the perfect time for all to invite a priest, chat, then bless the
house and return back to rectory. At times, we would take a little more time
when there were problems in some families and we would struggle to finish
the number of houses allotted to us. Well, it happened once, when I was very
late and there was only one house yet to visit. I was late and I felt a
little hesitant to enter a house. When I knocked the door softly, the woman
opened the door, and she said, Father Welcome, my little son has just gone
to bed and he is praying. I was curious how he was praying, so I asked the
mother to let me see the boy praying. I listened to him praying in a
wonderful way that was impressive. He began praying, Father, take care of my
Dad, Mom, my teacher, my friends, and also take care of Jane, who is ill.
Dear Heavenly Father please take care of yourself, because if something
happens you we are all gone. Amen.
That was really great a prayer. Even after almost 5 years I remember the
prayers of this little lad. God bless him.
In today's gospel, Jesus places a child in the midst of his disciples as an
example. In the gospel, the disciples have been arguing. They have been
arguing about which of them the greatest is. This is a popular argument
among adults. It continues on, down to our own day. We adults invest
ourselves heavily in this argument. Usually it is not so overt as it is
with these disciples. The argument is generally conducted indirectly,
communicated through symbols such as who has the biggest income, the
fanciest car, the largest house. Like these disciples of Jesus, today's
adults are concerned with who is the greatest.
These disciples are straightforward enough to discuss it directly as they
walk together down the road. Still they are ashamed when Jesus asks what
they were arguing about. They fall silent, uncharacteristically silent, and
they do not tell him. He knows what's going on, however.
Jesus equates greatness with servant-hood, a startling notion both then and
now. He also presents them with a child, just in from the playground, as a
symbol, an example. He asserts that welcoming such a child amounts to
welcoming him and the Father in heaven who sent him.
The world in which Jesus lives does not value children highly. To compare
the heavenly Father with a kid just in from the playground upsets the
ordinary prejudices of people in that world.
We live in a world where all too often children are not valued highly. They
may be valued in your family and mine, but stark statistics are available
about children abused, malnourished, uneducated, imprisoned, so that we
cannot claim that our world today is uniformly safe for children.
In the face of this world, the church acts in obedience to Jesus in
welcoming children, and this child in particular, and announcing her as
God's child, as a royal person, an heir to the kingdom of heaven, a co-heir
with Christ himself.
The church acts in obedience to Jesus in welcoming children, not only on the
day of their Baptism, but whenever these children come forward to the Lord's
Supper as equal participants with others who are baptized.
The church welcomes children, not only when sacraments are celebrated, but
by recognizing their worth in numerous ways in the life of congregations by
nurturing them, helping them fulfill their ministries, and welcoming the
gifts they bring which enrich us all.
The church welcomes children who come to us in special need, who lack food,
or counsel, or shelter, children who in a world they find cruel long for an
advocate and protector, and receive what they need through ministries
offered by Christian groups and through other efforts promoted by Christian
To welcome one such child in the name of Jesus is to welcome Jesus himself,
and it is to welcome the Father who sent him. Thus a blessing is attached
to the welcoming of children that is done in Christ's name.
This blessing enriches Christian communities and individuals, and it rests
especially upon parents and other family members who welcome and keep
welcoming the children in their midst for many reasons perhaps, but
certainly in the name of Jesus.
The blessing falls upon us when we keep welcoming the children not only
because it may be natural or expected or decent to do so, but finally
because there is something sacred about our doing this. Blessed are those
who in the midst of the challenges of caring for children of any sort can
recognize the sacredness of doing so and always keep that sacredness in
So children and their play can be a reminder to the rest of us that eternity
beckons us here in the midst of time. For this reason, Jesus places in the
midst of his disciples a child fresh from the playground to remind them to
seek the eternal in the world of time, to play and to contemplate which are
much the same thing--because play and contemplation are worthy in
themselves; they are their own reward. The play of children is not merely
preparation for life's practicalities; it is a reminder and symbol of our
overarching purpose in this age and the age to come, which is the
contemplation of God.
After we were born our parents found days and months of sheer delight as
they cuddled us, held us, played with us and watched us become little
persons. Each boasted of the characteristics they saw in us that they were
sure came from their own genes. In generous moments they gave attribution to
the other parent or the other parent's family.
It was not long, however, that our parents had to begin dealing with
something within us that I can only describe as "The Imperial Self." We all
had one, you know - and still do! And what is amazing is how soon that
Imperial Self asserts itself after we've been given life. The darling,
lovable baby soon strives to become a self-willed tyrant. In that emergence
the words "I", "me", and "mine" become no longer descriptive, they become
imperious. Our parents soon became more willing to break the wills of newly
born wild horses than they were in trying to put bit and bridle on our
willful little egos.
Then came middle and later childhood. Once again our parents were given days
and years of delight, happiness, and exchanged love. Ah, those were the
days! But then came the teen years. I wish I could ignore even mentioning
the teenage years. But, of course, I can't. In those years in which our
Imperial Self acquired muscle, muscle along with learned techniques to exert
power and control. Emotional blackmail was employed; appeals to what
"everybody else" is thinking, saying or doing were brought to bear. Threats
of leaving were issued. Each one of us developed our own arsenal of weapons
to be deployed by the EGO within us.
And the result? Well, mixed of course.
Some of us still carry scars from those days. Some of our parents never
recovered from the wounds. Others, however, suffered little. Still other
families were relatively undamaged. In our teen years many if not most of us
learned good lessons and have long since gone on to having wonderful, loving
relationships with our parents and siblings. We've learned how to manage and
contain our Imperial Selves as well as forever junking those emotional
weapons of mass destruction that we employed back then. Still, there are
those of us who are thirty, forty, and fifty-year-old teenagers. There are
those of us who are remain, decades later, tyrannical infants who must win
at all costs.
Winning and being a winner are deeply imbedded in our culture; they are a
national pastime. All one need do is observe our obsession with media
superstars and sports heroes. Getting all "A's" while we are in school
becomes another obsession for us. Our parents are often our worst enemies in
this regard. We strive to win at all costs.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we should not pursue
excellence, that we should not develop our talents, and not use our talents
and abilities to strive to be highest and best that we can be. That sort of
end goal is laudable and good. It is the means to that end that can
devastate those around us and ruin our own souls.
Self-concern has its moments and aspects of legitimacy. But self-assertion
that seeks to dominate and control others, to employ techniques to coercion
and emotional blackmail quickly takes us into demeaning and degrading
Whoever said that one
ascends a ladder by pushing others down to the lower rungs? Does one better
one's self by putting down others? The politics of personal destruction only
lead to our own self-destruction. The will to dominate and control others,
even God, is the subject of today's Gospel account. As a priest I've
encountered more than a few souls who are angry at God because He didn't do
as they expected, because He didn't dance to their tune.
One of the saddest observations I have when looking out at our surrounding
culture is to see how many people are degrading and demeaning the goodness
and holiness found in others. The first reading in today's Mass, taken from
the book of Wisdom, speaks in part to that. But we should pay attention to
the entire passage. The complete reading is as follows. Note how aptly it
describes the attitudes of so many in today's world.
"Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the
freshness of creation avidly. Let us have our fill of costly wine and
perfumes, and let no springtime blossom pass us by; let us crown ourselves
with rosebuds ere they wither.
Let no meadow be free from our wantonness; everywhere let us leave tokens of
our rejoicing, for this our portion is, and this our lot. Let us oppress the
needy just man; let us neither spare the widow nor revere the old man for
his hair grown white with time. But let our strength be our norm of justice;
for weakness proves itself useless. Let us beset the just one, because he is
obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for
transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the
To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for
us, because his life is not like other men's, and different are his ways. He
judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He
calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let
us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him
from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the
test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God
will take care of him." These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their
wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent
For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made
him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are
in his possession experience it.
A second point I would like to consider with you. It has to do with being
child-like. I suspect many people are thrown off by a misinterpretation of
what Jesus means when He asks us to be as little children. He is not asking
us to be childish. Nor is He asking us to be passive-dependent persons, or
mindless, unthinking robots who have no initiative and are not
What He is asking us to be is "teachable", to stop thinking we know
everything there is to know about religion, God, the Church, the bible and
all of the other things of God. Just because we completed our religious
education programs when we were young, and just because we have received the
Sacrament of Confirmation, doesn't mean we've nothing more to learn about
what God wants of us. People have gone on to earn doctorate degrees in
theology still lose their souls! People who graduated from our nation's
finest Business Schools have gone on to pillage the coffers of our major
corporations and empty out the retirement accounts of countless retirees who
gave their lives in working for those corporations. Knowledge may give us
some power, but knowledge by itself cannot save us.
It is sometimes said that you cannot be a good businessman or businesswoman
and be an observant Christian. I think that in order to succeed in business
you should put Christian principles into practice. Stop and think
about it. Are not those businesses that best serve their customers the most
successful businesses? Two family members who belonged to Reliance family
have benefited from that principle to the extent that each one of them today
is a billionaire! Well it is said that they studied in Christian Schools?
Jesus' admonition: "If anyone wants to be first he must be the servant of
all" seems to make practical sense to me. Having served the interests of
Larson and Turbo Corporation as well as many business enterprises are
spectacular successes starting from scratches, collecting scraps to sell and
begin their business, and today they are multinational giants. And those
businesses that have not delivered quality service have either failed or are
about to fail. Self-aggrandizement at the expense of exploiting, demeaning
and degrading others is not the road to success in this life or the next. It
is said that Bill Gates the richest man on this planet gets inspiration from
his dear wife who is a devout Catholic. But those who are closed to learning
what Wisdom, Truth and the Word of God reveal to them are likewise on the
road to failure.
Are you willing to take
the road less traveled?