To put it frankly, there seems to be very little, if any, good news in our readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. But only those unwilling or unprepared to live all stages of the Paschal Mystery could object to this.
Before being joyous and glorious in our resurrection we must go through our own passion and death.
At times we might get so absorbed in something that we lose sight of our being one with Christ Jesus in virtue of our Baptism and by eating his Flesh in Holy Communion. Only those who died in the Lord along with the Blessed Mother and all the Saints are sealed already in the glory of the resurrection; while we, still living on this earth, are experiencing from time to time or for prolonged stretches the inevitable trials of life. Some of them are the result of our personal poor choices; some are the consequences of other people’s poor choices, much the way the poor choices of an insatiable stomach can make the whole body sick.
Due to our human nature wounded by original sin, this could be hard to swallow as it is evidenced by all 3 readings (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16—4:3; Mark 9:30-37).
When Jesus spells out the unsavory details of his passion and death, the disciples fail to understand and refuse to ask questions for fear that he would come up with additional frightening clarifications. Thus, they opt to try the “safe” alternative proposed by the world. They get into a heated discussion on who is the greatest among them. We might see in them a reflection of ourselves whenever we forget our calling to live through the painful stages of the Paschal Mystery, with patient endurance, courage and hope.
In the Letter of James, there is a description of what happens when someone rejects outright the Paschal Mystery of glory through the cross. Those who do not wait for God to guide, sustain and fill them with His blessings in due time; those who try to get all that they want, whenever they want it, head for self-destruction and cause all kinds of pain to those around. Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice…Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?… You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain… You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Perhaps the most tragic outcome of this somber and graphic picture given us by James is that the poor choices of self-absorbed, arrogant and foolish people have devastating effects also on the innocent.
In the Book of Wisdom, we come across those who are viciously set on making sure that the just ones, Jesus, and any of us willing to embrace fully the Paschal Mystery with him, get crushed. These are the people who are determined to defeat God’s plan of glory through the cross. Today, some of the not-so-evident good news is that they have failed in the past and that they will always fail no matter how hard they try. Why?
If we keep in mind that we are one with Christ through the painful stages of the Paschal Mystery, we should know why. It is because Christ is risen. It is because God’s way has been already vindicated. Maybe we are not yet living out, viscerally, this most astonishing reality. Maybe we forget that there never was, is or will be a single person who, regardless of power, wealth, intellectual acumen, luck or good genes, could escape sufferings and death.
The difference that we are called to celebrate in our church every Sunday is that we are well-equipped, confident, hope-filled and strengthened by God’s Word and Sacrament to face our share of pain and our death in union with Christ Jesus! As I look around, forgetting for a brief moment the sharp pain in my heart, I see you all, my brothers and sisters—from kids to very old people, all of you bringing in here open wounds, visible scars and, I am certain ,also very sharp but almost invisible hurts. None of us has been spared.
Hence, to myself first, and to all of you, I must repeat with all my strength, with the deepest conviction that Christ is risen—that, as one with Christ, we have risen, too. From God’s point of view, from the other side of time, all our tears have already been wiped away and we are already sealed in the glory of Jesus’ resurrection. But from this side of time, it seems to me that we are facing three significant challenges while we try to remain sealed in the glory of Jesus’ resurrection. First, we have to handle our share of sufferings in union with Christ Jesus, without losing sight of the glory awaiting us. Second, we are to avoid the pitfall of yielding to the evil inclinations we inherited from original sin, as described in the Letter of James, lest we hurt ourselves and the innocent without succeeding in skirting pain and death. And third, we are urged to receive Jesus in our heart in total humility and a deep-seated sense of unworthiness.
Today, both in his Word and in the Sacrament, Jesus invites us to think small in order to share in his glory beyond our passion and death. We are to embrace insignificance and smallness as the guiding forces of our life. In them, he assures us, we will find him and, in him, God the Father Himself.
Who is more powerless than a child? What is more insignificant than a wafer? Yet, we are assured by him that in our powerlessness we will seek to rely exclusively on him to be exalted and, by eating his Flesh in Holy Communion, we will be strengthened to endure all trials and secure for us the pledge of immortality and glory.