1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
The Book of Wisdom is known only in Greek and may be the last book of the Old Testament to be written. The main interest of the author is to reassure the Jewish community living in Egypt that keeping their faith is worthwhile despite the hardships in a pagan land (Aren’t we still?). Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah draw from the insights in this book, so it deserves healthy attention (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 488-489).
Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success; the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita says, “On action alone be thy interest, / Never on its fruits / Abiding in discipline perform actions, / Abandoning attachment / Being indifferent to success or failure” (Wolpert, India 71).
For Gandhi, ahimsa was the expression of the deepest love for all humans, including one’s opponents; this non-violence therefore included not only a lack of physical harm to them, but also a lack of hatred or ill-will towards them. Gandhi rejected the traditional dichotomy between one’s own side and the “enemy;” he believed in the need to convince opponents of their injustice, not to punish them, and in this way one could win their friendship and one’s own freedom. If need be, one might need to suffer or die in order that they may be converted to love (http://www.socialchangenow.ca/mypages/gandhi.htm).
In South Africa, the words “I am” also mean “you are.” I am because you are! This concept, known as ubuntu, emerged in the 19th century and developed as a world view for South Africans when apartheid was legislated in the early 1950s. It literally stands for human-ness or humanity toward others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said ubuntu means “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Nelson Mandela wrote “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Ubuntu then is a philosophy of interdependence (from recent blog of https://richardsvosko.wordpress.com/). How does this fit in setting the “wicked” as being someone else? Are we all to learn and be blessed by one another?
2nd reading: James 3:16-4:3
James questions what we still question today…why is there war? Why can we hold on to our own self interests? He begs his listeners to be seekers of peace…to be pure, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. Where do you find peace in your life? How does this help you in times of conflict?
From Seeking Peace, Johann Christoph Arnold:
“You will always find reasons to grumble. If you want to find peace, you must be willing to give them up. I beg you: stop concentrating on your desire to be loved. It is the opposite of Christianity.”
“…the inside must become like the outside (and the other way around)…a consistent battle in favor of all that is life-bringing and good…”
“Joy and peace are found in loving and nowhere else.” – John Stott
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
Not only is Jesus predicting his Passion and death a second time (remember last week’s Gospel?), but he is teaching his disciples the meaning of servant. We are all servants of Christ and servants in his household. (Birmingham, W&W, 653) How do we become servants of Christ? It’s all about the love! J We will be unable to endure the cross Christ asks of us if we do not grow in the love he gives us. When we follow the way of the Lord and the will of God in love, we live in the perfection of justice we seek in our prayer. Only then will we understand and live the life of a true servant of Christ (654).
Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges developed the Lead Like Jesus movement. Like Sigmund Freud, ego has a lot to do with it. We have a tendency to Edge God Out by putting ourselves in the center (like the disciples in this Gospel story). We let pride and fear get in the way. We need to have a tendency for Exalting God Only, where we have a spirit of humility and confidence in God’s purpose. It is a lifelong struggle (Phelps, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, 58-63).
Did you notice that Jesus and the disciples are in constant motion? They are constantly on the way to somewhere, on a journey. This is like our lives now! We are challenged to be present with Jesus in our constant motion too.
The word for servant (talya) is interchangeable with child. The word receives is the same word for welcomes in 6:11. It means taking care of the weaker members of the community – those who are in most need of being served. Children were at the bottom of society’s social ladder. Childhood was a time of great danger. 30% of live births ended in death. Disease and lack of hygiene caused 60% of children to die by the age of 16 (Birmingham, W&W, 656). Jesus turns everything upside down for us. We are supposed to be more like children (or servants) to receive Him. How do we do this? Again, it is all about the love…
David is another unlikely hero in the Old Testament. Like Joseph and Moses, he had humble beginnings being the last of eight brothers. It was not likely that he would defeat Goliath the Philistine in battle because he was so small and unprepared. He was only a shepherd boy. He could not even wear the armor because it was so heavy and cumbersome. But defeat him he did, saying, “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, “(1 Samuel 17:45). David eventually rises in power and becomes king, but his actions are not always pristine. He falls for Bathsheba, a married woman, and she becomes pregnant from their tryst. Like Moses, he tries to hide it by having her husband killed in battle. That way, she would be free to move in with him. However, later on, he is remorseful and goes back to God for redemption. “People may still choose to sin, but the goodness of God and his everlasting mercy will be seen in the bounty and the regularity of nature’s seasons, “ (Boadt, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, 124).
We all screw up. We sometimes make the same mistakes over and over again. We may think that there is no redemption for us. But these underdogs of the Old Testament tell us there is. There is always hope. They say, “You think you make mistakes? Look at us! We have made some big ones, yet God’s grace saved us.” It is possible, and that is why these stories speak to us so profoundly.
David felt a deeper purpose despite the odds against him. When King Saul died, David prayed to God about it and moved his family to Hebron. He told the people, “Take courage, therefore, and prove yourselves valiant men, for though your lord Saul is dead, the Judahites have anointed me their king, “ (2 Samuel 2:7). Did David really know what he was doing? David was moving into fresh domains where there were no role models (Holladay, Long Ago God Spoke: How Christians May Hear the Old Testament Today, 110). He knew he was meant to be king, yet he had been a lowly shepherd. His resume was wanting, but there was a deeper purpose at stake. As Ruether says, “It is only in that gratuitous and transcendent mystery of freedom, that dawns upon us without our ‘deserving’ it, and before we have articulated our need for it, that we find ourselves able to enter into this articulation and transformation, “(Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power, 9). David entered into the unknown of being king and became transformed by it, because he knew it was what God wanted of him. He felt his function in life was to serve his people, and became king because he knew he could secure the nation for them.
Their lack of self ego makes these underdogs of the Old Testament the unlikely heroes that they were. This helps us relate to them and want to be like them. “…the hero is a person who lives in close contact with the inner world of the unconscious and its spiritual powers. This brings the hero stories closer to us…all of us have the potentiality to become the hero, each in his or her own way, “ (Sanford, The Man Who Wrestled with God, 86).
Some questions that David helps us to ponder and reflect:
Do you sometimes hear that little voice that tells you you can’t do something? Do you think it is from God? Do you think it keeps you from a full relationship with God?
Are there actions you do that you repeat over and over that aren’t healthy? God’s grace is always there for us. “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5: 3-5
Have there been times when you have felt unprepared yet felt you were called to do something? How did it turn out? Do you feel the Holy Spirit was a part of it?
How might you be a hero for God in your own way?