The Price of Status Quo

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 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.

James 3:16 - 4:3

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 passions.

Mark 9:30-37

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. They 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.”

Most of us strive to “do the right thing” where possible. On the one hand, our human nature, created in the image of God, lends us propensity to desire goodness, justice, and peace. On the other, humans also enjoy picking fights; challenging each other to assert one’s superiority. These “conflicts and disputes” among us, rooted in our egocentrism, juxtapose with our deeper desire for goodness, justice, and peace (Jm 4:1). Through this internal tension, we are able to better understand the mystery of God’s love and mercy.

This week’s readings offer some rather counterintuitive ideas regarding life. The highly dramatic voices of defiance portrayed in the Book of Wisdom shed light onto the darkest corner of the human heart. The “godless” people reject “the righteous one” because He “makes life inconvenient”, “opposes [their] actions”, and “reproaches [them] for sins against the law” (Wis 2:12). It is uncomfortable, to say the least, when others criticize our wrongs. Indeed, they put on a mask of defiance to hide their fear. Fear of what? Perhaps fear of the darkness hidden in the deepest recess of their heart? Such fear manifests itself in defiance, mockery, and even hatred: “Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death” (Wis 2:19-20). They believe that by putting the other down, they may prove themselves superior and thus, have an excuse not to change their sinful ways. How often have we been filled with similar fear and defiance? We often reject “good” advice because deep down, we know that we must change but change comes with a hefty price. However, have we considered the cost of status quo?

Therefore, let us welcome this divine light that reveals the darkest recess of our heart. In the second reading, we learn that though making the right choices can be difficult at times, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (Jm 3:17). When we experience “cravings that are at war within” us, we need to accept that we can do and change nothing by our own strength for “the Lord is the upholder of [our] life” (Jm 4:1, Ps 54 :4). James counsels that, first, we must be honest with ourselves, “where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness” (Jm 3:16). Then, simply “ask” God for help. It is only through the lens of our constant struggles against ourselves that we may uncover what’s hidden and allow the one true light to dispel our darkness, revealing the path to goodness, justice, and peace.

Just as the Book of Wisdom prefaces, Jesus, “the righteous one”, accepts that He will be “betrayed” and killed. He also anticipates with full confidence in God’s divine plan that He “will rise again” in three days. From a pure human perspective, it is indeed hard to swallow Jesus’ apparent defeat. His disciples, and often us, fail to understand the paradox that weakness is strength. St. Paul confesses that “power is made perfect in weakness… Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:9-10). Indeed, by God’s power, Jesus leads with gentleness, humility and faith instead of might, pride and self-confidence. His disciples are immediately put to shame and silence when Jesus confronts their foibles, “who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). Jesus offers a completely counterintuitive and counter-cultural perspective: “Whoever wants to be the first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). Indeed, when we shrink our ego to make room for God’s love and mercy, we will find strength to relinquish the darkness in our heart, namely, pride, “envy”, “selfish ambition”, “disputes and conflicts”(Jm 3:16, 4:1).

Recognizing our darkness and fear, let us proclaim:
“God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, for it is good.” (Ps 54:4, 6).

Posted: September 23, 2018

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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