September 20, 2015 — Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Some 80 times in the Four Gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” Today’s Gospel reading from Mark includes the Lord referring to Himself in this way twice: “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.” Using this title for Himself was one of the ways Jesus tried to emphasize His humanity. By doing this He is identifying with us, the people He came to save.
Our readings for this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to the difference between earthly and heavenly wisdom, and Jesus tries in the Gospel to explain to His disciples that what is occurring, His presence among them, is unique in all of history — and not just distinctive but utterly exceptional and significant.
Our First Reading is from the Book of Wisdom. The purpose of this Book is to explain the excellence of “wisdom,” the means to obtain it, and the fruits such “wisdom” produces. There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowing something does not mean we understand it. However, there is also dissimilarity between understanding and wisdom. Wisdom is a deeper appreciation and grasp of something. There are nonetheless two kinds of wisdom — that which comes from our own thoughts and considerations, and the wisdom that comes from God. Within the Book of Wisdom are many references to Christ’s coming, His passion, and His resurrection. Today’s reading finalizes with the sentence, “God will take care of him.” In the process of our own pursuit of wisdom, we need to at some point reach the conclusion that indeed “God will take care of us.” Trust in God is imperative to living a Christian life.
In the Letter of James, our Second Reading, the writer refers to heavenly wisdom as opposed to earthly wisdom, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” The implied fruit of “wisdom from above” is a heart full of love and giving. This is, of course, a stewardship heart. To achieve this kind of wisdom the best course is a life of righteousness and prayer. Too often we view prayer as a time when we communicate with God. It should be a two-way street and the real purpose of prayer is to align our will with God’s will. We partner with the Lord and in that way together we try to accomplish His will on earth. James points out that earthly wisdom is beset with evils and wicked influences.
The Gospels are powerful because they include firsthand accounts and reports of what Jesus said and did. Today’s Gospel from Mark articulates a teaching moment from Jesus and much, much more. The Lord begins by explaining what is to happen in the coming days and weeks as they move toward and into Jerusalem. As He and His disciples were walking and talking, He noted a discussion occurring among some of the Apostles. He inquired what it was they seemed to be disagreeing about, and they revealed that they were arguing about “who was the greatest.” You can almost see Jesus stopping in his tracks (“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’.”) His point is that greatness is found in service to others. This, of course, is the definitive goal and purpose of wisdom: in other words, Jesus wants us to get to a point in our faith lives when our trust in Him is great enough for us to humbly serve others and those in need. This is the example Jesus offers us, but it is also the result He expects from us as His disciples.