1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; 2nd Reading: James 3:16-4:3; Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
THEME: WE ARE CALLED TO HUMBLY SERVE ALL WITH A CHILDLIKE SPIRIT!
The quests for power, fame, supremacy, position, and the likes, have engendered a lot of rivalries among many people in our contemporary society. Surprisingly, Christians are mostly the very ones that exacerbate this cancerous phenomena due to their ambitiousness and cravings. Consequently, these tend to hamper growth, development, peace, unity and love in any given society.
Last Sunday, the Church presented to us, the mission of the Messiah, which was embellished with plethora of sufferings (humiliations, persecutions, hatred, opposition, etc). Meanwhile, in the first century B.C., the God-fearing (innocent) Jews experienced the same ordeal in the hands of the ambitious and ungodly people. They were put to the test, and were subjected to an intense influence of Hellenistic (Greek) culture and oppression by some fellow Jews, who had apostatized and converted to Hellenism. However, suffering can be a period of trial and testing for the righteous ones.
The FIRST READING of today highlighted the gimmicks of those renegade Jews, who despised and hated the innocent Jews, because their way of living (righteous) reminded them of their own apostasy. Hence, they always conspired and did everything within their power to humiliate and exterminate them. Paradoxically, these sufferings of the innocents and the success of the wicked are puzzles that continue to confuse many who believe in a Just God. This seems to be the reason why many Christians, seldom make any effort to lead righteous lives again, since they see the ungodly prospering very well here on earth, despite their atrocious acts.
In the GOSPEL, Christ gave the second prediction of His passion, death and resurrection. This, He did, in order to prepare the minds of His disciples before it happens. Nonetheless, due to their worldly-mindedness, His disciples couldn’t grasp the meaning of such prediction, since they were already anticipating an earthly military messiah who would subdue the pagan Romans, and restore the former glories of the Israelites. Ipso facto, this gave rise to their arguments on whom should be the greatest. Perhaps, they wanted to establish a political ranks or distinctions as regards who would hold the principal post of honour among themselves, when Jesus Christ eventually conquers their enemies, and sets up His earthly Messianic Kingdom.
Moreover, Jesus Christ, perceiving their worldly thoughts, confronted the emptiness of their self-preoccupation by presenting them a little child as a model or symbol of His followers. That His followers are called to serve in humility and faith, with a childlike spirit and trust in the grace of God. This implies that, anyone who wants to be a disciple of Christ must become like children and consider himself or herself as a slave of all. Hence, the one who is the greatest would be the humble servant of others, particularly the poorest (Matt. 20:26).” So, as Christians we must place the poor and marginalized at the centre of our interests, initiatives and plans. Not ambitiously seeking our own selfish interests, which engender dispute, discord and disharmony.
Regrettably, our discontentment with ourselves and our cravings for what another person owns destroy our inner peace, distort our perspective on life and make it difficult for us to love others. St. James enunciated this in the SECOND READING; that the basic violation of Christian code is concentration on self alone (selfish ambition) to the exclusion of others. Many people who are proud and ambitious especially when it comes to worldly affairs, always see themselves as wise persons. For selfish ambition is the worldly wisdom in its worse sense, and St. Paul made it clear to us: “To be worldly-minded (carnal) leads to death, but to be heavenly (spiritual) minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6).” Unfortunately, many people resort to the former instead of the latter, and that is the reason why they often become impatient with their fellow human beings; always stirring up quarrels, hatred, disunity, revenge, rivalry, and the likes, anywhere they are (Gal. 5:17-21).
Moreover, pride, jealousy, hatred, selfish ambition and covetousness are the most offensive sins to God, and they are cancerous phenomena that are very injurious to humanity, which stem from the evil one. They are the rationale behind every family feuds, village quarrels and global confrontations. So, anytime we begin to nurse or exhibit hateful, revengeful, jealous, or antagonistic feelings against one another, then the evil spirit is at work within us to destroy us. Consequently, if care is not taken, these feelings may lead us to nefarious actions, and the climax is murder, either directly or indirectly (character assassination).
However, St. James gave us an overview of the wisdom that comes from God. It brings the person who is spiritually-minded: love, joy, peace, patience, humility, etc., (Gal.5:22-25). Therefore, we need to be on our guard against our human inclinations, and embrace humility which Jesus Christ our Master exemplified; though He was God, yet He emptied Himself as a humble servant, and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6-8). We can succeed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, when we make a resolute decision to love God sincerely as well as our fellow human beings. Furthermore, we can also achieve this by frequently going to confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) so as to receive the grace to eschew hatred, jealousy, or antagonistic feelings against one another, and thus begin to love genuinely.
Finally, as Christians who belong to the same body of Christ, we are called to serve all in humility and faith, with a childlike trust in the grace of God. Placing the poor, destitute and marginalized at the centre of our interests, initiatives and plans. These will pave the way for us into God’s Heavenly Kingdom at the end of our sojourn here on earth.
Therefore, I pray that you and your family may receive the Power of the Holy Spirit, so that you can serve God and humanity with love, peace, humility and patience; and for those who are under oppression and attack by ungodly people, may the Almighty God deliver you, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
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