25TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: CAUSES OF FIGHTS AND QUARRELS
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
HOMILY: The fight for power and relevance dominate the daily news headlines. Early this year, during campaigns for elections in one of the states, unknown gunmen stormed into a civic centre where one of the politicians was holding an interactive session with supporters. These gunmen shot randomly at the people and abducted some others. These gunmen and their sponsors clearly demonstrated what is commonly known as politics of bitterness where people fight by all means to realise their political ambition. Such conflict and tussle over power are common phenomenon in human societies.
Two psychologists, Art Bell and Brett Hart identify other common causes of conflict among people. They conclude that people will fight because of distribution of resources, conflicting goals, conflicting roles, different personal values, different opinions, perceptions or points of view. There are many other reasons why people attack and destroy one another. The Apostle James says jealousy and selfish ambition are the twin reasons for conflicts between people. He says, “You desire and you do not have; so you kill. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and wage war.” Jealousy and selfish ambitions certainly breed disharmony, ill will and wickedness. In every conflict and war, there are instigators and plotters. The Book of Wisdom narrates an evil plot by a group of wicked people to attack a just man, not because he has done harm to anyone but simply because of his lifestyle is different and they are unhappy that he challenges them with the truth. They plan to torture, persecute and launch and unprovoked attack against him. They want to test the extent of his patience and gentleness.
The disciples of Jesus displayed their raw ambitions for power, greatness and glory when they began a heated argument among themselves about who was the greatest. This argument started after Jesus predicted what was going to happen. He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and when he is killed, after three days, he will rise.” His disciples failed to pay careful attention to what Jesus was saying to them. On the contrary, they were so absorbed with who was the first and greatest among them. Judas must have said, “I am the greatest, because I control the treasury;” Peter would argue that he has been called the Rock on which the Church is to be built; John would say, he is the greatest, because he was the beloved disciple; James and John would say they were the greatest because they were cousins of Jesus. Each one of the 12 disciples had reasons to think that he was the greatest of all. Their argument was becoming messy and turning into a fight. Jesus listened carefully to their conversations, but did not interrupt them until they came inside the house. He began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. Their silence could mean that at this point they realised how useless their argument was and had become remorseful.
Jesus, in his usual way of turning a negative situation into a positive one, used the opportunity to educate them about the meaning of true greatness. He shocked them with a new teaching when he said:
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
According to Jesus, the greatest is the one who serves; it is the one who is humble enough to receive a child, which is to say, and one who is gentle and tender with the weakest people in the society. The world tells us to be assertive and aggressive in seeking greatness and glory, but Jesus teaches us to be gentle and not to fight for power, money, or become slaves of our inordinate ambitions.
On several occasions and in his lifestyle, Jesus preached the gospel of gentleness. He cared for the sick, sinners and weak people with all the gentleness and tenderness that encouraged them to rise above their weakness and in his gentleness, he healed the sick, raised the dead and opened the eyes of the blind. In his gentleness, he was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, he confidently says, “Learn from me, for I am humble and gentle in heart” (Matthew 11:29). In the Beatitudes he says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). He also admonishes his followers to be as gentle as doves.
How can we respond appropriately to an aggressive world and to a world full of wars, conflicts and arguments? The Apostle Paul supplies and answer here: “Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with gentleness” (Colossians 3:12). A quotation attributed to St. Francis de Sales says, “Nothing is as strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”
25th Sunday of the Year B; Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Responsorial Psalm: 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37.