Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Wisdom furnishes the first reading for this weekend. This book was written in an effort to say that being faithful to God, and indeed worshipping the one God of Israel, represented not superstition but the greatest human wisdom.
To be convincing, the book obviously had to face the fact that evil exists in the world, because humans turn away from God and succumb to evil.
In this reading, the book describes the intrigue often involved in evildoing. Evil people conspire against the good. Evil people in the world especially detest anyone who devoutly obeys God. If nothing else, the devout challenge evildoers. The devout prove that holiness is possible.
Christians often see in this passage and in others similar to it in the Old Testament a look ahead to Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God.
From the theological point of view, from the standpoint of a broader message in divine Revelation, this passage and others like it prefigure the identity and mission of Jesus. When Wisdom was composed, however, centuries before Jesus, the incarnation had not yet occurred.
Nevertheless, all the details apply. Jesus was not without enemies. He personally was disliked. His Gospel was scorned. Still, Jesus triumphed.
For the second reading, the Church this weekend turns to the Letter of James. This letter never gives the name of its author. As four persons with the name of James appear in the New Testament, and possibly others by this name existed in the circle around Jesus, biblical scholars are unwilling to say definitively who wrote this work of Scripture.
It is unimportant. The test of inspiration does not, in the last analysis, rest on the identity of the writer alone, but rather how the Christian community long, long ago accepted the writing and how the Church officially has regarded it. The Church teaches and has taught that James is a divinely inspired work.
The reading is clear and practical. It, too, refers to wisdom. True wisdom shares in and reflects divine knowledge. Therefore, true wisdom is good because God is innocent of all malice. It seeks to find truth. It seeks to respect others. It seeks what is right and just.
St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading. This reading actually has two points. First, inevitable in the personal mission of Jesus was a confrontation with evil. The ultimate and most powerful of earthly realities, namely death itself, came to Jesus, but Jesus overcame all human evil as well as death. He was the victor.
The Apostles, while being the Lord’s special students, still were humans. Human ambition and shortsightedness also entrapped them. They accepted that the kingdom would come, as Jesus taught, but they wanted to rank high when the kingdom’s glory arrived.
Jesus warned them that reward in the kingdom would not be automatic. It surely would not be thrust upon them. They would have to deserve the kingdom by resembling in every sense: in their lives, they would have to imitate the life and sacrifice of the Master.
For millennia, Christians have celebrated the Apostles. The names of important cities honor them: St. Paul, San Diego and St. Petersburg, in this country, Sao Paulo in Brazil and St. Petersburg in Russia.
It is fitting, yet this weekend’s lesson from Mark’s Gospel reminds us that the Apostles were only humans. As humans, they did not know everything. Worse, they sinned on occasion. Peter is a perfect example of both faults. They needed Jesus.
Their human condition and need remind us of our own human limitations. We glory in our knowledge, but the best scientific minds among us cannot cure COVID-19 once contracted.
Jesus is the one and only source of wisdom. He never fails. Follow Christ. Listen to the Lord.
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