The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2015 – Cycle B
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37
Did you ever consider that Jesus is interested in what you and I think.
- In last week’s Gospel, Jesus asked his disciples, (that’s you and me), “Who do you say that I am?” [Mark 8:29] Jesus is interested in what we think about him.
- On the day of resurrection, Luke records that two disciples were returning to their village of Emmaus conversing and debating about Jesus’ crucifixion and death, a story of an empty tomb, visions of angels and news that he was alive. Jesus draws near, begins walking with them and listens in to their lively yet disheartened debate. Jesus asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” [Luke 24:17] Jesus is interested in what is happening in their – in our – lives.
- Today, Jesus has been listening in again to his disciples as they walk home to Capernaum. “What were you arguing about on the way?” [Mark 9:33] I expect there were raised voices, some shouting, hand gestures in the air, some jostling(?). Jesus is interested in what we are passionate about; also what causes us to get angry.
Reflect how fast the topics of abortion, welfare, gun control and immigration get heated; how the conversation quickly deteriorates into shouting, name calling and labeling as people back into their corners of truth. To what end? Both parties dig in their heels and close themselves off to other possibilities. Blind and deaf we part from each other.
Consider what is at the basis of all arguing? Is it not about fear and power? Who has power. Who wants power. Who fears losing power. Where there is a grasp or perceived grasp for power there is also a loss or sense of loss of power. What was behind Putin’s occupation of Crimea? Why did we go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why is the world literally building walls: between Mexico and the US; between Israel and Palestinians; between Europe and Middle Eastern refugees. Notice the repetition of the word “between”. Fear and power separate us. It is all about the inordinate fear of losing something and the excessive and often unwarranted desire for power that leads to arguing, conflicts and war.
- Who has the remote control? (It sounds petty, and it is, but how many shouting matches have taken place over a piece of technology and the control, the power, of what will be watched or listened to.)
- Who needs to do their homework and get to bed?
- Who feels they are not being treated fairly in mom’s Last Will and Testament? (As if any of us have a right to even a parent’s possessions and savings. Last Wills and Testaments are gifts. Yet how many families have been torn apart by jealousy and greed over Wills?)
- Who’s the fool who cut me off in traffic?
- Who gets custody of the children?
- “Why can’t you wear your hearing aids so I don’t have to shout!”
- Why do people leave parishes and either stay home or leave for another denomination?
- “You spent how much?!”
- Lying, not being transparent, silence are all manners in which people grasp for control that often lead to arguing and division.
This is all summed up in the question posed in the Letter of James: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?” Let’s not talk of the wars between countries but what about the wars and conflicts in our families, between coworkers at our places of employment, in our parish. What is the latest conflict in these areas of life that you are now engaged?
What about the wars within ourselves? Our obsessions, our desires, and lusts. Do we not argue within ourselves? Try and convince ourselves that our intentions have value while we continue our sinful and narrow ways. Isn’t that what is happening in the Book of Wisdom? We don’t exactly know who the wicked are but we do know they feel attacked, they have blinded themselves to truth, they are like a wild animal caught in a corner lashing out as they consciously plot torture against another person and make excuses for themselves. Torture. It is a medieval sounding word that we thought was relegated to the past and yet it has come back into our contemporary experience and vocabulary. How often does torture today take the form of cyber bullying, belittling people on Facebook, and there is always the time honored gossip and slander over coffee? The death of a person’s reputation can be more destructive than physical death, can it not?
“Jesus was teaching his disciples, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him…” Oh by the way, “What were you arguing about on the way?”” [See Mark 9: 30ff] The silence of the disciples is filled with shame and like them we live these conflicts but do we ever express them in prayer? “What were you arguing about on the way?”