Homily 25th Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael UdoekpoReadings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6-8; Jas 3:16-4:3 and Mark 9:30-37
Responding to Sufferings Righteously!
The Bible readings of today build on the theme of last Sunday, namely, “the meaning of Christian suffering and how we respond to them in faith and righteousness”!
These characteristics are seen in biblical figures like Abraham, Job, Israel’s prophets, -- Habakkuk, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, Joseph and Mary, and of course, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ! Beside these biblical figures, there are many people and saints in our life time, in our cultures, towns, villages and neighborhood that we can always look onto as examples and models of faith and righteous endurance in the midst of persecutions and trials. For example, Oscar Romero died celebrating Mass. Maximilian Kolbe died so that a married family with children could live. Mother Teresa of Calcutta chose simplicity of life for the poor. John Paul II bore his suffering to the end, publicly, in front of the TV cameras! In fact, good parents in some cultures prefer to go starving, so that their children would eat, have good education or medical care. The list can go on—there are still many hope givers in our communities!
As to the 1st reading of today, (Wis 2:12, 17-20) many have basically describe it as a homily based on 4th song of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the surrounding texts. The righteous person will be afflicted (Isa. 52:14; 53:26) people will be amazed the salvation he brings (Isa. 52:15) and people will repent. Wisdom of Solomon, today’s 1st reading, like Deutero-Isaiah, is a story of persecution and exaltation of the righteous one, the saddiq. The Lord will always protect and defend the life of the just one, no matter what! The Lord upholds their lives (Ps 54:6b).
As mentioned earlier every age, time and culture has its own life -- challenges, trials, sufferings, vississituteds, and difficulties to deal with. To start with the Jews in exiles were not an exception. Responding to the Alexandrian Jews who were suffering or had recently suffered persecution- the author of the Book of Wisdom writes to comfort them, to explain their ordeal and to give them hope.In the community of Saint James of today’s 2nd reading (Jas 3:16-4:3) sufferings were orchestrated for some members due to rivalries, disorders, envy and jealousy. James, like the author of the Book of Wisdom recommends peace, selflessness and hope in wisdom from above which is pure, peaceable, gentle, understanding, compliant and mercy-- that only Christ can bring!
The more reason, Christ himself would insist in the Gospel( Mark 9:30-37) that his disciple – understand that, (like Servant of Isaiah), 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,”—simply foretelling his enduring sufferings and trials! Remember, Christ said this to a tensed group of disciples who were rivaling and arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest! Under this circumstances Our Lord recommends not only wisdom, but the attitude of a child and of a humble, sincere, docile, self-surrendering, servant to the will of the Master!
For ourselves today, how often do we not strife to put ourselves before others? Envy, inordinate ambition, jealousy, selfishness and many other unrighteous acts are common in various religious, and socio-cultural communities’ today- making life more difficult for its members! In some places, those who speak the truth and keep the basic Christian tenets and the teachings of the Church are castigated, ridiculed and persecuted! In those moments of sufferings—whatever form it may come to you --let us righteously respond to such challenges like Christ and the suffering servants, the just one, or the little child, in today’s readings be trustful, and hopeful in the glorious and saving grace of Jesus Christ our Lord and Master!