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Ordinary Time 25 (B)
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Readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B


1. Wisdom 2, 12 and 17-20

  • The wicked say, Let us beset the just one.  I am overhearing something today, and it makes up the entire reading.  It sounds to me like a conspiracy!  That is the tone I want.  I will suggest whispers, broken by an occasional shout of futility, as if their intentions could not stand the light of day.  And if I have bugged the room where the conspiracy takes place, then my listening device would capture faint sounds sometimes incoherent, but often sharp.
  • He reproaches us for transgressions of the Law.  Now I begin to hear the reasons behind their suspicious plan.  Again they make the usual plaint that it is not convenient to let that person go on denouncing them.  But then it begins to change its tone, turning almost into a testimony.  Listen: He charges us with violations of our trainingHis gentleness, his patience. 
  • The more I think about this, the more it seems that many persons are speaking the lines.  I’m recalling the plot scene in Jesus Christ Superstar (This Jesus Must Die).  It might help the imagination of my listeners, if I suggest very slightly with varied voices that many speakers lie behind the charges and denunciations.  I will need to rehearse very carefully the tone and speed of each voice, and avoid at all cost a caricature of this mob.
  • I intend to say the words If the just one be the son of God… pausing long enough for my listeners to remember where they might have heard these words in the past.  I’ve heard them proclaimed in the Synoptic accounts of the Passion of Jesus.  And during my pause the congregation can reflect further on the end that lies in store for this ‘son of God.’ 
  • God will defend him.  Oh, c’mon!  Where did we see that in the movie The Passion of the Christ?  Where do we see that in Chechnya, in East Timor, in the Colombian jungle, in Abu Ghraib and, yes, in the World Trade Center?  So how can I read it limply like a throwaway line?  I will uncover two meanings, evoking the trite formula of a sentencing judge (“God have mercy on your soul”) but also my personal faith (“God is on his side, not ours”). 
  • With revilement and torture let us put him to the test, that we may have proof.  I need not overplay this sentence.  My only intent is for our assembly to recall the secret prisons, etc.  I am not dealing with antiquities.
  • Let me end on a supreme act of faith.  God will take care of him.  And it occurs to me: What insight can I gain into human relations and inter-faith dialog if I substitute "Allah" for "God"?  Lengthen "God" here and my listeners may make the connection.
  • Central point: We have here a testimony, out of the mouth of evildoers.  Let us see whether his words be true, let us find out what will happen. 
  • Message for our assembly: This reading and others from Wisdom gave comfort to the early Christian martyrs.  What meaning do they have for us today?
  • I will challenge myself: To avoid caricature in my speech, remaining very serious and pointed in the spirit of a hit operation, while at the same time faithful to my deep trust in God’s saving power.

 

2. James 3, 16 to 4, 3

  • I have become a man who lets his feelings be known.  The apostle is telling his listeners that only certain feelings are right and just to express in the church.  What can I learn from this that I can pass on to the assembly?
  • Jealousy and selfish ambition come first in the passage, and they lead to disorder and every foul practice.  These are the behaviors he denounces.
  • I am especially fascinated by the list of virtues, beginning with wisdom from above and descending into peace and mercy and good fruits.  As I read I will soften my voice from the harsh admonition with which I began, until I reach sown in peace.  That is the point at which we can listen to each other’s spirit.
  • Here comes an abrupt change of tone.  Where do the wars and the conflicts among you come from?  I will pose the question in the same stark and categorical way the apostle has done.  Then I will pause long enough for people to answer in their own ways.  Next comes the apostle’s answer, which they can compare with their own: The passions that make war among your members.  He concludes with a list of the people’s behaviors and his judgment about them.   
  • Climax: The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace.  It is a saying that is usually expressed in reverse order in the church today ("If you aspire to peace, seek justice").  It needs to be repeated carefully because it describes succinctly all that the apostle is saying today.
  • The message for our assembly: God gave us the power to feel passion, but can we learn to control it for the good of everyone?
  • I will challenge myself: To make a very detailed passage more intelligible and appreciated by my listeners.  This one is convoluted enough that poor and hasty preparation will not lead to effective proclamation.

 

Gospel. Mark 9, 30-37

  • Mark is the evangelist of the Messianic secret.  This passage begins with an example, in which Jesus is returning to Galilee.  He did not wish anyone to know about it.  That is a signal for me, too.  I do not have to speak with my strongest voice now. 
  • Jesus will remind the disciples of hard times ahead and admonish them about places of honor in his company.  These sayings need a subdued but firm voice for a room full of close friends.
  • The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him.  The connection with the first reading is so close that my listeners will pick it up readily.  Now I hear the just man talking, instead of his stalkers.
  • They did not understand and they were afraid to question him.  The disciples are portrayed in very unfavorable terms.  That makes them a lot like ourselves!  This is the right time for me to look with purpose upon the assembly.
  • He placed a child in their midst.  I usually attend a mid-morning mass at which the children abound, and I need to hear this message.  Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.  I remember the concerns of Voice of the Faithful, the young men and women that were and still are at risk within the institutional church.  I remember the teachers such as myself who don’t always listen to students when they express their feelings. 
  • Climax: The marching orders for our servant church.  He shall be the last of all and the servant of all.  Why is it that I somehow feel that the masculine pronoun fits this saying well?
  • Message for our assembly: One of the aspects of our life together as church is that of service to each other.  Let us use this reflection to grow in openness to others.
  • I will challenge myself: To look for firmness in my gentlest voice today.

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