The Mercy of God!: 25th Sunday
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB –
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: The Mercy of God! “One denarius “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all”
Point of Reflection: Why do most people in our families, societies, religious houses/communities, and governments want to be more important than others? We can ask further, why some civil leaders and some religious leaders want to be recognised and be the first? Today’s Scriptural readings especially the Gospel elucidate the need to be humble and be the last, and all in all, to be the servant of all.
First Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17–20
Psalm: Psalm 54:3–8
Second Reading: James 3:16–4:3
Gospel: Mark 9:30–37
Sermon (Reflection): This Sunday’s readings invite all the Christian Faithful to be humble, to be the last not the first, and to be the servant of all. Always when I read the Gospel of Mark 9:30-37, what comes to my mind is two Gospel passages; first is John 13:1–17, Jesus Christ who is God washing feet of his disciples: what a gesture and manifestation of humility, being the last, and all in all being a servant of all. Second, is Matthew 20:2-18, God using the image of the landowner gave everyone who came to work to the vineyard of the Lord the same amount, though some came in the morning and some in the evening, all were given one denarius, thus, the mercy of God and God says in that passage, “so the first will be the last and the last will be the first (Cf. Matthew 20: 16-17).
It is the Mercy of God not usage of time, today, God is inviting us to reflect on our own life to always serve others not to be served because you have power or authority.
How many civil and religious leaders want to be served not to serve? This is very common also in our families we live in, most parents especially fathers and the breadwinners of the family want to be served not to serve because they bring food on the table.
Even in the societies and religious houses we live in, superiors or leaders do not want even to serve at the table or at the altar, why? They feel that they are more important than any other. Of course, it is not only leaders or superiors but also the subordinates need to always uphold serving but it is very common to leaders not to serve but want to be served.
Today’s Gospel has a point to correct our actions and minds in the Church and civil status quos. We are all Christians in the first place and our duty as Christians is to serve not to be served.
A good example of the status quo is found in today’s Gospel, with the disciples captured and dominated by the concern for greatness and position. Jesus stepped in with the correction of these unacceptable views. This is a lesson for us.
Let us not be like the disciples. Instead of thinking of what we can gain, let us think of how we can serve.
Our pre-occupations may vary, but the liturgy invites us to reflect on which desires drive our lives. We are reminded to examine our prevailing thoughts and desires, and to see whether they are directed to true Christian values, whether they lead us to the path of holiness, and help us live well in the community of God.
In the first Scriptural reading, they are two opposing Jewish groups strove to be proved right. The group of the righteous sought greatness by their adherence to God and his law. The group of the Greek sympathizers sought to be proved right by showing the other group to be wrong. Both sought importance, recognition, and greatness, but they pursued these in two very different ways.
One group pursued greatness by living a righteous life, the other did it by challenging and undermining the first group. Today too in our communities and churches we have those people who think they are holy (holier) than others. As Christians, we do not need to think we are more important than others and to live in competition but we need to live in peace and love.
In the second reading, James also deals with a divided community, disrupted by envy and the pursuit of selfish ambitions by its members. These vices spring from a misguided desire to be greater than others, and stand in stark opposition to God’s wisdom. Wisdom manifests itself in numerous positive ways, which the author lists. However, the greatest fruit of divine wisdom is peace.
Personal righteousness thrives in a situation of peace, and leads to peace. In whatever you do in life, please strive for peace, my brother and sister, wherever you are, live by peace and you will be the best and happiest person on earth.
The Gospel reading combines two distinct passages which brilliantly portray two types of greatness. In the first part Jesus makes his second passion prediction. He teaches the disciples about his commitment to carry out his mission to the point of dying on the cross. The disciples neither understand, nor seek explanation of this teaching. The reason for their indifference becomes obvious in the passage that follows.
Jesus and the disciples have arrived in Capernaum. Most of the disciples were from this town, they came home. On the way, they were arguing who among them was the greatest. It was likely, as they approached their hometown that they wanted to establish who has had the greatest success.
Surely, they intended to boast about their accomplishments to their friends and families. This means, that, as Jesus was talking about his self-sacrifice, they were bickering about rank and importance. Without explicitly criticising them, Jesus uses this shameful incident to teach them about true greatness.
First, greatness means service. Such a view turns the entire social order of the day on its head. Greatness, in the view of the disciples and of the society in which they lived, meant being served, not serving. Second, discipleship requires “welcoming children”. Again, such behaviour differs from the prevalent social order and practices, where children, like servants, had the lowest social status. They had no rights. Their lives depended entirely on the choices and decisions made by their fathers.
They were the last to be fed and could be freely given away by their parents as servants or slaves. Welcoming a child meant extending one’s care to those who were not formally entitled to it. Jesus teaches that true greatness consists in protecting, and uplifting those who have no one to rely upon.
The disciples’ quest for greatness was utterly misguided, as they sought to establish a hierarchy of importance in their little group. But true greatness in the Kingdom implies self-sacrifice, service, and concern for the life of others, rather than self-aggrandisement.
Christian Act in Word of God “Be the Last not the First”
We all crave something, usually for that which brings us pleasure and comfort. Someone once said, “Life is too short, scoop it with a big spoon, because you might not have the opportunity again”. We all want to get the best out of life. Everyone wants to be at the top of their game, their career or their calling as a religious priest or brother or sister or layperson.
Is it wrong to crave a good life, to seek a better life? Certainly not, but a deeper look into our desires is needed, because often we crave for what, in reality, are just our own selfish interests.
When our craving is all about the “I”, then we can easily get lost in the ocean of selfishness, putting our desires first at the expense of everything and everyone. We might use others to get what we want, and, at that point, we can be driven to doing harmful and disgraceful things. All that matters is that I get what I want, even if the earth stops spinning and others fall off its face.
James invites us to a deeper reflection on our lives as Christians, and as a part of the Christian community. But some of us think that going to be part of a Christian gathering either during Holy Mass or community prayers means we are watchmen or policemen of others.
Some as leaders or subordinates, we go to church to check who is in or not: my brother and sister, you waste your time when you go to church for observations or speaking ill of others in the Church instead of praying. As a Christian community, we need to go to church to pray not to judge or condemn.
God is good at all times. It is the value of self-importance that make others to think they are holy than others. It is only Jesus Christ who serves not a single human being, hence, we need to pursue Christian values.
Christians must pursue values of other-centeredness and broad concern for others. These are fitting for God’s children and as members of Christ’s body. Our cravings can also affect our prayer life, because we push Christ away from our life, and from the midst of the community, by not listening to him. The scripture says: “where two or three are gathered in my name I am there”.
But when each one gathers in their own name, seeking personal gains and glory, we impose only our presence and do not seek the presence of God. Hence, when we pray, our prayers are not answered, because we ask with only ourselves in mind.
Action: From today onwards, I will seek to be the last not to be the first and I will not live in competition but to live in peace and love. The one who is great is the last not the first.
Prayer: Almighty Father, today you have taught us not to seek importance in the communities, families, and societies we live in but to seek humility which is seeking the last place, not the first. May You endow us with the spirit of humility, so that we may put others always before us and serve others unselfishly. May we be good servants to all. We ask this through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you forever and ever, Amen.