Detailed homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: WHO IS THE GREATEST?
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
Homily for Sunday September 19 2021
R1 – Wis. 2:12, 17-20;
R2 – James 3:16-4:3;
GOSPEL – Mark 9:30-37
Mohamed Ali, the one-time heavy weight champion would often boast, “I am the greatest!”, and people believed he was. Of course, he thrived as the greatest in the punching world; being the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions, and successfully defended this title 19 times – making 61 appearances, winning 56 times, with 37 KOs (knockouts) and loosing only 5 times in his entire career.
But, is that all about greatness and being great?
Beloved in Christ, the question bothering on, “Who is the greatest?” has always been a problematic and of great controversy as we see in today’s Gospel reading; because of certain varying factors and relative conceptions of what greatness means. Obviously, greatness sometimes varies from one profession, career, religion, vocation, lifestyle or geographical space to another. For example, what constitutes a great man in politics differs from that of religion and sometimes different religions have varied notions of what greatness means and possible means of attaining it. Likewise, greatness in various businesses and enterprises differ. Of course, the worldly standards of greatness differ from that of the celestial abodes, because the scripture declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Is 55:8).
Moreover, we may not openly claim to be the greatest in any particular field but deep down we like to feel that we are on the top, we belong to the elitist class. We sometimes play the power game in one way or another and much of our behaviour is aimed at asserting: “I am No.1 – I am unbeatable!” And such power game is what the apostles displayed in today’s gospel reading. On their way to Capernaum, they discussed among themselves who is the greatest. The disciples were still clueless about Jesus and His mission. Even as he predicts for the second time the betrayal and death await Him in Jerusalem, they continued to dream of sharing His glory when He declares Himself as the Messiah in the holy city.
*WHO IS THE GREATEST IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD?*
Today’s scripture readings invite us to become great in the sight of God. The fundamental questions remain, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God and what are the characteristics of greatness in God’s kingdom?
The apostles’ discussion on who’s the greatest puts a question mark on their knowledge of what greatness means in the sight of God before Jesus’ interrogation.
Fr Joseph Donders, puts up a parody or an imaginary content of their conversation as follows:
Peter: “Of course, without doubt, I am the most important! Didn’t He call me the Rock on which that community of His will be built?”
John: “I am sorry for you. What you are saying maybe true but that is only a question of administrative bureaucracy. Though you maybe a good administrator, it does not mean that you are important to others. You should look for something else, something more important. You should look for His love. When you do, you will realize that well, he loves me the most.”
Judas Iscariot: “The most important person in a group is the one who holds the money. The world is ruled by money. To whom would you entrust your riches?”
Philip: “Do you remember when he had that catering problem? Thousands followed Him, eagerly awaiting the words of wisdom that flow forth from His mouth. Nobody knew what to do – not even Him, it seemed. He turned to me for advice. I am sorry for you, but he asked me!”
However, their dispositions portrayed how ignorant they were as regards greatness and prominence in God’s presence and their high level of insensitivity towards their master’s plight and impending agony, which he predicts the second time in the Gospel reading.
*THE GREATEST IN GOD’S KINGDOM*
After the interrogation, Jesus assembled the Twelve, gave them the greatest shock of their lives as he tutored them on the true meaning of greatness in God’s presence:
(i) If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all
(ii) If anyone wishes to rank first, he must become the servant of all.
This appears not to be a practical advice for someone wanting a promotion, especially now leaders lord it over and prefer to be served than to serve. They may have felt disappointed with dashed hopes and dreams. However, Jesus’ response and projection of little children reveals the facts that we can be exalted with Christ in heaven only after following in Christ’s footstep of carrying the cross with humility.
(1) *HUMILITY IS GOLDEN*
When St. Bernard was asked what the four cardinal virtues were, he replied: “Humility, humility, humility and humility.” Little wonder, Jesus described John the Baptist, in his humility as a precursor as the greatest, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Mtt 11:11). This shows that in God’s sight, the way up is down and the way down is up (For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted – Lk 14:11).
John the Baptist is a man known for extreme humility. So, accept humility and learn to say, “I’m sorry,” “Please, forgive me,” and be counted among the greatest.
(2) *GREAT MEN/WOMEN CONQUER THEMSELVES NOT OTHERS*
Great men/women in God’s kingdom are not like Mohammed Ali in the introit story who conquered others. Never! In God’s sight, great men are:
(i) Those who conquer themselves against their impulses, cruel and crude desires for jealousy, wickedness, immorality, detraction, calumny, revenge, etc., as already mentioned in the letter of St James in the second reading.
(ii) Those who endure adversities for righteousness sake and ever ready to stand with heads high amidst tribulations as purported in the first reading.
(3) *GREAT MEN SERVE OTHERS*
Emeritus Pope, Benedict XVI, called himself, “the servant of the servants of God.” This shows readiness to be a servant-leader as Jesus mandated us in today’s gospel reading. Leaders are public servants who lead and serve, not lords who rule, dish out commands and are served. Embrace the ministry of service.
Finally, a man spoke with the Lord about heaven and hell. The Lord said to the man “come, I will show you hell.” They entered a room where a group of hungry people sat around a huge pot of cooking stew. Everyone in the room was starving. Each person held a spoon that reached the pot but each spoon had a handle so much longer than their own arms that it could not be used to get the stew into their own mouths. The suffering was terrible. “Come now, I will show you heaven,” the Lord said. They entered a room identical to the first, the big pot of stew, the group of people and the same long-handled spoons. But here everyone was happy and well-nourished. “I don’t understand,” said the man. “Why is everyone happy here and miserable in the other room? Everything is the same.” “Here, said the Lord, they have learned to SERVE each other.”
MAY THE LORD GRANT US THE BURNING DESIRE TO STRIVE AFTER HEAVENLY PROMINENCE AND GREATNESS.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
_FR GERALD MUOKA_