25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Sept. 23 (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37)


Many have discovered to their dismay that leading a godly life is not always the path to popularity or success. Being godly does not mean that a person is perfect or a saint — it is simply expressing the presence of God’s divine principles in every aspect of daily life.

The passage from Wisdom is very interesting and on target psychologically. The sight of an exemplary individual can arouse a variety of reactions — hopefully, a desire to do likewise. Often, however, there is just the opposite reaction: a feeling of defensiveness, anger or shame at oneself, and an overwhelming desire to somehow remove the challenge to one’s image of self. Wisdom speaks of “the godless” — this doesn’t necessarily mean atheists, but those whose lives do not bear witness to God’s presence — even if they are believers.

This practical or virtual atheism is one of the biggest problems of our world. The godless in Wisdom’s example hope to bring down the righteous one through their insults and torture, showing that the righteousness was all talk. They can then continue comfortably and with a sense of relief in their usual way of life.
We can see examples of this in modern muckraking and character assassination of those who challenge the status quo by their manner of life, their habit of speaking and living the truth and their efforts to change the world for the better. Some have even paid with their lives. The real challenge is for those who walk in God’s ways.

The “godless” provoke the righteous ones in an attempt to make them forget God for the moment and respond in all too familiar human ways. This is the ultimate test: can people remain “godly” in the face of these challenges or will they react with anger, violence, unkindness, revenge or cowardice? The most effective weapon against persecution and adversity is patience, forgiveness, compassion and steadfast commitment to one’s path. These are the very things the world seeks to destroy.

The author of James knew this well. He recognized that mere religiosity means nothing if it is characterized by “envy and selfish ambition” as well as conflicts and disputes. Divine wisdom cannot be counterfeited — it is expressed in honesty, kindness, peacefulness, mercy and good actions, all of which are expressions of wisdom from above. If we are at war with ourselves we will be at war with those around us. Only by being at peace with ourselves and in harmony with God can we create peace in our midst.

Jesus was the perfect example of the righteous one who walks in God’s ways — and He was and still is a challenge to all human beings. In a sense, He revealed to us who we really are beneath the layers of world-created personality and what we are capable of becoming again. He challenged our ideas, our behaviour, our values and our understanding of God. Many responded with joyful eagerness, while others sought to bring Him down and destroy Him — and this continues in our own day.

Ironically, this fearful defensiveness and desire to make Jesus over into a “safe” and domesticated image is often at the hands of Christians. Jesus warned His followers of His violent end but they were absolutely clueless, as proven by their argument over who was the greatest. They hadn’t understood a word of what He had been teaching and the consequences of living it out. In a simple but graphic gesture Jesus demonstrated that He undermined and redefined human notions of honour and status — in effect, He recast human relationships. In a culture in which most social interactions were exercises in calculated gain or advancement, He demanded that people welcome children — those lacking honour, status or advantage — as if they were Jesus Himself. In other words, human relationships and interactions were to be based not on external appearances or the labels that people place on others but on the presence of God within every human person.

Whoever welcomes another — especially a “nobody” — welcomes both Jesus and God who sent Him. This new way of living has rarely been completely understood and appropriated by Christians and over the centuries has been routinely ignored or forgotten. Cultivating an awareness of the divine presence in others and acting accordingly not only transforms the individual but also the world around us.

Published in Fr. Scott Lewis
Page 3 of 3