YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: THE WAY TO TRUE GREATNESS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 9:30-37
Message # 334: “I Am Forming You to Suffering”
1. The Marian Message
a. The message of the Blessed Mother was on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15. The day before that, September 14, was the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Looking at Jesus on the cross, no one will miss another figure beneath it, and that is Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows.
b. The Seven Sorrows of Mary are: 1) the prophecy of Simeon; 2) the flight to Egypt; 3) the loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple; 4) the meeting of Jesus and Mary on the road to Calvary; 5) the crucifixion and death of Jesus; 6) the dead body of Jesus taken down from the cross; and 7) the burial of Jesus.
c. The Blessed Mother places herself as our example of total obedience to the will of the heavenly Father, even to the point of sufferings. That is why she is called the sorrowful Virgin, the Mother of suffering. (letters a, b, and c).
d. Mary is the Mother of Suffering because of her Son, Jesus. Since the start of his Incarnation in her womb, he already has undergone an endless series of sufferings for the salvation of mankind. Being the Mother of Jesus, “I formed, raised, followed, loved and offered my Son Jesus, as a gentle and meek victim, to the divine justice of the Father” (letter e).
e. Just as she is the Mother of Suffering on account of Jesus, she is also the Mother of Suffering on account of us all, her beloved children. She is with us on our side as our Mother, forming us, helping us and giving us comfort in our sufferings.
f. She is forming us to suffering. She does this by helping us say “yes” to the will of the Father that we join in the work of redemption of His Son Jesus (letter f). This means that we are invited to join in the sufferings of Jesus, just like what Mary did, for the salvation of mankind.
g. So Mary is helping us to suffer like her, and transform our sufferings into a “perfect gift of love” (letter h). This, therefore, means that we will have to practice docility, gentleness and humility. This further means that we will learn how to bear our crosses patiently and lovingly in order to offer ourselves to God and our neighbors with joy and true generosity.
h. Finally, the Blessed Mother assures us of her motherly presence, especially in our moments of sufferings, just like when she was present beneath the cross while Jesus was dying. “Today, when sufferings are increasing from all sides, everyone will become aware, in an ever stronger way, of the presence of your heavenly Mother” (letter i).
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. While Jesus was preaching all over the region, he was also giving instructions to his disciples about his forthcoming sufferings and death. This was his oft-repeated teaching to them. But they did not understand it. For them, the Messiah cannot suffer. But they were afraid to question him about it, most probably due partly to fear that they might suffer the same harsh rebuke that Peter experienced: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mk 8:33).
b. The real reason why they could not understand the lesson about the suffering Messiah was identified in the second paragraph of the Gospel this Sunday. They could understand it if they wanted to. But the truth is they were actually not willing to understand it. Why? They were all obsessed with the quest for power and prestige: “They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). It is very clear that when the spirit of pride, ambition and thirst for power is at play, the core message of the Gospel – self-sacrificing love – cannot find an open ear. This is what happened to the disciples.
c. To illustrate his point, Jesus brought in front of his disciples a little child, and taught them about the meaning of true greatness. Being childlike is the key to true greatness – the virtues of humility, simplicity and total dependence on God. A person, who has leaned to truly depend on God, as shown in his humility and lack of interest in material things, is the one who possesses real power (the power of God) and true greatness. A quotation says: “The most powerful man on earth is the one who bends his knees and prays.”
d. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35). This is a very great Gospel paradox, which so many people simply cannot comprehend. Jesus has spoken these words for more than two thousand years ago. But as we see it now, it looks as if they have not yet encountered this teaching at all. They behave as if Jesus has not given this teaching. Pride has always been the rule of the day. And it has caused so much ruin and misery among so many people. This statement simply means that pride reduces a person to nothing. On the other hand, being humble and the last make the person trust God all the more, and thereby he becomes favorable in the eyes of God. It is now God who lives and works in such a person, and that makes him truly great in the real sense of the word.
3. Points for Reflection
a. Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Yahweh (“Ebed Yahweh”). This is due to the Mystery of the Incarnation. When the Son of God assumed the human nature, he became subject to the fullest spectrum of human experience, and that includes human feelings, sufferings and pain, from the moment of his conception in the virginal womb of the Blessed Mother. That is the necessary consequence of being human, for after all, he is true Man as he is true God. He had no sin, but he endured the most severe human sufferings ever. Yet he never complained, and never wished to ease his own sufferings. We are just creatures of God, sinful and of no real value without God. Yet despite our sins and unworthiness, we demand from God many things, which were denied to Jesus. We pray for riches and wealth; we ask for an end to our problems and sufferings; we long to live comfortable and easy lives. All these things that we are asking for were never enjoyed by Jesus. So, he reminds us: “No pupil outranks his teacher; no slave is greater than his master.” If we are followers of Jesus our Master, why do we try to outdo him by asking for things and blessings, which he never had in the first place? Jesus has never abandoned the cross, although he is sinless. But on the other hand, we who are sinners, are asking him to take away our cross and sufferings. This is truly ridiculous and embarrassing to our Lord.
b. We shudder at the thought of the scourge of drug addiction, which is destroying lives, families and societies. But there is another addiction, which is infinitely worse than drugs. This is the temptation of power – intoxicating, addictive and definitely destructive! This was the third and most serious temptation of Satan to Jesus: “The devil took (Jesus) up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” (Mt 4:8-9). Jesus promptly rebuked Satan, and willingly took the way of the cross and self-sacrifice.
c. Satan has used the temptation of power to the hilt, and has since then very effectively destroyed families, societies and souls. Just look around, and we will see countless examples of the great destruction wrought by ambition and unbridled thirst for power. When election time comes, all politicians turn away from God and bow down at the altar of Satan – cheating, lying, murder, money worship, pride, jealousy, vanity, hypocrisy, slander, profanities and all kinds of sins. Look at how many politicians do things they do not normally do: singing and dancing on stage, going to the Temple of the Iglesia ni Manalo, planting trees or digging esteros (with full media coverage, of course!). What is worse now is that even some priests and other religious leaders (Catholics and non- Catholics alike) have already entered politics. Wala na silang ipinag-kaiba sa mga taong makamundo! They all have sold their souls to Satan, just to have power, and to remain in power. But the thirst for power is present not only in the secular world. It is very much at play in the Church. Look at the Gospel this Sunday, how the disciples were also jostling for power and position even while Jesus was with them every day. If secular politics is bad, church politics is equally bad – to think that the bishops and priests are supposed to be models of humility and true service. That is why, every day we really have to pray seriously for our priests so that they will not be victims of the addiction to power and pride.
d. Let the example of St. Francis of Assisi serve as our inspiration. He remained truly humble throughout his life. He even refused to be ordained a priest; he was just a deacon. He believed he was not worthy to be a priest. He distanced himself from any position of power, yet he became very powerful in reality. He was very instrumental in ending the centuries of violence between the Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land during the time of the Crusades. He was known as the Man of Peace. He was able to conduct a dialogue with the Muslim chieftain who admired him, and came up with an effective arrangement to stop the wars and live together in harmony. That is why all the holy sites and shrines in the Holy Land have ever since been entrusted to the care of the Franciscans (OFMs, Capuchins and Conventuals).
e. Jesus used the example of a child to bring home the idea of true greatness. This is not easy to understand because a child is a picture of helplessness and dependence. There is nothing great and powerful in a child. But the mind of God does not agree with this common perception. If we just give it a little thought, we will realize that there is truth to this. The child has the power to move and change the hearts of people. Just a little smile from a baby erases the tiredness of a mother or father, and brings light and cheer to an otherwise gloomy atmosphere. The voice of a child brings joy and hope to people. The simple and innocent words of a child are full of wisdom, wit and humor. It is very easy to notice if there is a baby in a home – the ambience, the spirit and the smell is conspicuously different. There is a design on a t- shirt that illustrates the power of a child. It depicts a baby with the words: “Nobody sleeps while I’m awake!” We must always remember that God has a special place in His heart for the little ones – the children, the poor, the humble and the little ones. So if we really want to be great in the eyes of God, we should not strive to be the first or the greatest or the best. Rather, let us remain humble and simple, and be like little children. That is the way to become heirs of God’s kingdom.
Recite together the Litany of Humility
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