25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Wisdom provides this weekend with its first reading. This book is one of several in the Old Testament classified as “Wisdom Literature.” These books were attempts several centuries before Christ by pious Jews to affirm the reasonableness of their ancient religion.
They felt the need to assert this reasonableness because of the surroundings in which they found themselves. They were not in the Holy Land, having left their ancestral homeland to find better conditions elsewhere. Living elsewhere meant that they were in the midst of pagans.
These pagans had all the advantages, and they were firmly in control of everything. They were the sophisticated people, the achievers, and the smart people.
Arguing with them, and their pagan philosophies, was not easy. The Jews seemed absurd, still they held firm to their belief in the One God of Israel, and they insisted that, considering everything, their belief made sense while paganism made no sense.
So, the Jews wrote these books called the Wisdom Literature.
Incidentally, many of these books do not appear in all editions of the Bible. At the time of the Reformation, scholars of the new Protestant traditions turned to the quite rigid standards to judge validity of Scriptural works concluded by Jewish divines as far ago as the first century AD. Some of these books, written in Greek, a language other than the sacred Hebrew, and written outside the Holy Land, the land given by God to the Chosen People, simply did not qualify.
This weekend’s reading very clearly illustrates the struggle between good and, between God and human evil. Evil has no place in the presence of God, and vice versa.
For the second reading, the Church turns to the Epistle to James. This clear and frank message speaks of those human activities that are at the root of evil. The epistle warns that hardness of heart, and wicked intentions, lead humans to unholy but also destructive behavior.
St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Jesus predicts the Crucifixion. He forecasts being seized and delivered to evil persons. He also declares that after the Crucifixion, in three days will come the Resurrection. He will prevail!
Important in this reading, as so often in all the four Gospels, Jesus gathers together the Apostles as special students and as special companions. They all have been called to build the Church.
Still they are humans, vulnerable to sin and human pettiness. Jesus reminds them that each must be a servant to all. Success is through humility, and through living in the model of Jesus.
Through the biblical readings at Mass these weeks the Church has explained discipleship to us. It has not led us down any primrose path. If we truly follow Christ, we must walk through a hostile world to our own Calvary.
In this weekend’s first reading, from Wisdom, we are reminded once more that today, as centuries upon centuries ago, the world stands away from, or in conflict with, God. We cannot stand with Christ and tolerate, or yield to, evil. We must choose one or the other.
Following Jesus is difficult, however, Jesus is with us. He is with us in the teachings of the Apostles, whom the Lord commissioned to continue the work of salvation. We hear their teachings, applied even now in the visible, institutional Church. He is with us in the sacraments, also conveyed to us through the Twelve.
The first step in discipleship is to acquire the genuine humility to know who we are and what we need. We are indeed humans, with all the dignity belonging to us as creatures of God. Still, sin limits us. We need God. God is in Jesus. With Jesus in our hearts, we achieve our true potential.
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