FIRST READING Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
SECOND READING James 3:16-4:3
Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace. Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
GOSPEL Mark 9:30-37
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Today the Gospel repeats part of what we heard last week because it is so important: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
At the heart of our Catholic faith is the belief that Jesus is both God and man, that Jesus was born for our salvation, that Jesus died for us and that Jesus rose from the dead. Always we are invited to know Jesus personally through the Scriptures and through the Jewish and Christian traditions that have come down to us and which we accept as revelation.
It is no easier today that it was in the time of Jesus to believe these truths of faith. We must meet the living Jesus before we can truly commit ourselves to Him. We should not think that those who were alive when Jesus was had it any easier than we do. They also found it difficult to believe that Jesus was God and that he rose from the dead after being put to death.
We come to meet Jesus personally in the Scriptures, by reading them and meditating on them. We come to meet Jesus personally when we meet the Christian community, the Church. We come to meet Jesus personally when we meet a believing Christian who is able to give a living witness to the Lord.
The first reading today is from the Book of Wisdom. It also gives us a methodology: start persecuting Christians and see what happens to their faith. Start persecuting good people and see if God will come to save them. This is pretty strong medicine but it is also part of what convinced the early believers. When the civil society put itself against believers, some gave up their faith, but many were able to stand firm and to die for their faith. The challenge for us today is this: Am I willing to die for my belief in Jesus as Lord, as God and as the one who gives Himself to us in word, in sacrament and in His Church.
The Church is always a mess because it is a Church of sinners. As is clear in every age, even the leaders in the Church are sinners, some worse than others. Yet that same Church proclaims Jesus as God, as Lord, as Redeemer. That same Church proclaims Jesus who died as Risen.
The second reading today is from the Letter of James. It explains, in some way, the results of our sinfulness: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” In reality, it says that wherever sin is present there is disorder and every foul practice. The challenge for all of us is to continue to fight our sinfulness.
The Gospel tells us again that Jesus Himself proclaimed that he would be put to death and rise, but that His followers could not yet understand what those words could mean. Only when Jesus had died did some of His followers remember and begin to reflect.
We are His followers today. Do we forget His words? Yes, just as did His early followers. There will be trials and tribulations and evils, but Jesus has promised to be with us and to be with His Church until the end of the world. Let us continue to live our faith because Jesus is Lord.
Your brother in the Lord,