Homily for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Path to true greatness
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday September 19 2021
Readings: Wisdom 2: 12,17 – 20; James 3:16 – 4: 3; Mark 9: 30 – 37
Peter’s confession “You are the Christ” in our last Sunday’s liturgy awakens a new dawn which Jesus had immediately shrouded with images unimaginable by his disciples. In that journey that is slowly leading from Galilee to Jerusalem, he re-proposes those images that are not in keeping with the ideas that ran through the Jewish people in those years of harsh Roman occupation. The long-awaited Messiah, instead of riding the riotous wave of the anti-imperialist revolution, will too be crushed by powers that be: “he will be delivered into the hands of men and be subsequently killed”.
It is disturbing to know that the disciples instead of paying close attention to Christ, were rather caught up in their constant struggle for personal success and therefore embarrassed to answer Jesus’s question. It is not wrong for believers to be industrious or ambitious, but when ambition pushes aside obedience and service, it becomes a sin. Pride and insecurity can cause us to overvalue position and prestige. In God’s family, such motives are destructive. The only safe ambition is directed toward Christ’s Kingdom, not our own advancement, pride and status seeking.
In keeping with the right way, Jesus then decides to begin a wonderful lesson with words but also, in the style of the prophets, with a symbolic gesture. The words are concise: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” The true first of the Kingdom of God is the last in the kingdom of men, he is the servant, the despised one. He shows this in practical term in John’s gospel: “If I, the Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13: 14). In line with his teaching, Jesus then invites one of those children who still today walks the squares and the narrow streets of our villages, embraces him as a sign of love and tenderness and indicates him as the model to be imitated, revered, and respected. With this gesture Jesus re-balances, a well-established tradition in the ancient East according to which children are marginal and imperfect creature who have nothing to offer.
In identifying with the little ones, he teaches his disciples the path to true greatness. St Teresa of Avila would say, humility, obedience, simplicity, love of God and neighbor, spiritual childhood. Little Children do not desperate for resounding success, they do not crush others to triumph, they do not plunder and oppress but consecrate themselves in purifying obedience, in simplicity and total self-abandonment to parents and loved ones.
Unless we become like them, we cannot really encounter the Lord in a more genuine and personal way. we must accept that childlike part of our being, of our personality, and with it we become less ambitious for vanities, less concerned about dignity and personal glory, less afraid of death and failure, less desire for power and influence. With Childlike energy, we shall be more disposed to let go of hurts and past pleasures ang glory. It is then, that believing and following Christ can be real and authentic. We must not be afraid to join the company of the young at heart for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as them.
Fr. Jude Chijioke