A Moment of Respite (homily)

Tom Bartolomeo
©Tom Bartolomeo
25th Sunday Ordinary
Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20;
James 3: 16-4:3;
Psalm 54;
Mark 9: 30-37
Reproduced with Permission

I so much encourage all of you to examine the readings for Mass before you arrive. They are often strikingly revealing about our society today. Sacred Scripture, you should know, is for all times as true today as when written.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom describes the assault of evil in the world against all that is good and holy. And who are "the wicked [today] who say: 'Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings. . .'?"

Then we have Saint James in his letter tell us

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. . . . where do the wars and . . . conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make you war within your members?"

"Foul practice" and "conflicts among you" and a war of "passions . . . within your members"? Gay pride, homosexual rights, reproductive rights, marriage of persons of the same sex, contraception, abortion, sterilization, and a government mandate that we must support or pay the penalty for resisting all the above . . . so help us God?

And the gospel reading,

Jesus and his disciples . . . began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. [Why?] 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."

And how did his disciple receive his teaching? "They did not understand . . . and were afraid to question him."

It was the third time he had told them that he was going to be "handed over" to his enemies, that "they would kill him." They heard Jesus alright but would not accept his teaching. They were in denial as so many are today.

It seems ludicrous, too, that Jesus after hearing his disciples arguing "among themselves . . . who was the greatest" had to stop, gather his disciples and have them sit down together to tell them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all" -- hearing this from Jesus who alone was practicing what he was preaching.

Yes, the word for all of this is "denial." Things we don't want to hear and dismiss out of hand. It didn't change anything, though. Jesus knew from the beginning before he was born that he would directly and openly confront evil in the world by himself, alone. Every turn he took there was danger. His enemies preferred that he be disposed of quietly perhaps along his way to Jerusalem. Remove his memory from the face of the earth so evil could continue without even a footnote. He would have, however, a very public execution for all the world to remember, all of Jerusalem and Israel and the mighty Roman Empire.

But then there is a moment of respite in the story of conflict between good and evil and our sinful passions which reap a whirlwind of death and disease. You would think that divorce, Aids, sexually transmitted diseases and the psychological wounds of contraception, abortion and sterilization would be enough to dissuade us from such conduct. But in that moment, Jesus takes "a child . . . places it in 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'."

How incredibly selfless for a man who is journeying to a cruel death to fold his arms around a child. In that moment the Christ steeled his resolve. I will die for this child. I will die for all my Father's sons and daughters, Adam and Eve and all their children till the end of time.