A clash between good and evil

We have God for our help for He upholds our lives (Psalm 53). It is truly awesome and amazing to experience Jesus Christ as the Word of God in our faith journey.

Sep 18, 2021

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Wisdom 2:12a, 17-20;
James 3:16 – 4:3; Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

I shall journey with you, my dear friends, through my personal reflection on the readings of this weekend which I hope can help shed some light on our understanding of how alive the Word of God is. How I wish and pray that I may communicate with you in the way our Lord Jesus Christ communicated with the people of His time while on earth. He was indeed a skilled and powerful communicator. As a great teacher He used metaphor and, to a certain extent, exaggeration, to make His points. We are very familiar with many of His popular parables, which must have had a tremendous impact on the lives of the people who followed and listened to Him. I often think how wonderful it would have been to be there among the people, or more fortunately, among His disciples and followers, and to hear Him in person teaching and explaining to a greater extent.

In this week’s Gospel, we hear Jesus likening the welcoming of children in His name to welcoming Him personally, and saying that those who welcome Him welcome the One who sent Him. Sounds nice to you and me today, I’m sure! But this must have caused some murmurings among those listening to Him simply because the status of children at the time, like that of women, was low, since they were considered to have no rights of their own. In other words, Jesus was teaching them that greatness comes through caring for the least. In the context of the time, children were possessions of their fathers, and they could be bought or sold or even exploited. Some were even killed in those days, as they are today through the pro-choice mentality! And here we see how St Mark linked the prediction of Jesus’ passion with the status of a child. Contrary to accepted customs of those days where only immediate family could touch them, Jesus’ embracing children in public was indeed a social challenge. But in taking the children in His arms, Jesus declares that they are accorded the dignity and respect we would give to God.

We are all a family of God indeed. Jesus’ example of taking children in His arms is a sublime image of His powerful teaching as a Son of God. Sadly, today for us clergy who are the Alter Christus, this sublime act is now linked to strict protocols that cover adult behaviours towards children due to the world’s current tragedy of child abuse. The minute percentage of the Church’s personnel, including clergy and religious, who have succumbed to such practices of abuse, has been enough to taint the dignity of the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Church.

Going further, Jesus prophesied in plain everyday language that the rich and powerful were going to do away with Him because of the way He lived and what He said. It was a prophecy the ordinary people who listened to Him could not fathom instantly. But for you and me today, we have the first reading taken from the Book of Wisdom to help us come to terms with this contrast between divine wisdom and folly. In other words, the first reading spells out clearly the fact that those who refuse divine wisdom often taunt those who do. In today’s world, the godless are still openly taunting, ambushing and silencing the godly, not only from the outside world, but also from within the Church.

And so, it has always been a clash between good and evil … not so much in the world outside but within each and every person! The Letter of St James in the Second reading is clear for us to see, but may seem too confronting, perhaps. Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? (James 4:1). It is so glaringly clear that most of us are blind to this flaw within because of pride, and so we see this flaw only in others. Only the wisdom that comes from above can enable us to come to terms with this flaw within us. Only then can we become peacemakers.

In order to be counted among the children of God, we are not alone in our effort to embrace a conversion of heart to become peacemakers. Let us not give up but, instead, persevere and keep the faith. We have God for our help for He upholds our lives (Psalm 53). It is truly awesome and amazing to experience Jesus Christ as the Word of God in our faith journey. For St Peter tells us that the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter:25).

Praise be Jesus Christ who has shown us the way to the Father.

--Fr Patrick Boudville is from the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur. He is currently the parish priest of the Church of St Thomas, Kuantan.

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