25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Wisdom 2:12,17-20
The Book of Wisdom is unique in the Bible as being the product of a
Greek frame of mind, for the author is believed to be a Hellenized Jew
(a Greek who is a Jew) thoroughly familiar with Greek culture.
Against the background of Egyptian worship of animals and mockery of
Jewish trust in God, the author devotes much of the first part
(chapters 1 through 5) of the book to the ineffectiveness of such
mockery when God has promised immortality to those who remain faithful.
Although the book itself claims that it was written by Solomon, this is
an example of the use of a pseudonym; a device often used in the
ancient world to highlight the importance of a literary work –
here the author used the prestige of Solomon, the greatest of the wise
men of Israel. The book was probably written at Alexandria around the
last years of the reign of Ptolemy Dionysius (80-52 B.C.), very close
to the Christian period but before the Roman conquest.
[The wicked say:] 12 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
This draws on Isaiah 3:10 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of
the Jewish Scriptures). From 2:12 to 5:23 the sacred author draws
heavily on Isaiah 52-66. His teaching on retribution is the fruit of
meditation on these chapters in their Septuagint form, and he sets
forth that teaching in a series of characters or types taken from
Isaiah, presented in their Isaian sequence and embellished with
additional details from elsewhere.
17 Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will
happen to him. 18 For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend
him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. 19 With revilement and
torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his
gentleness and try his patience. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful
death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
2nd Reading - James 3:16-4:3
Three weeks ago, and again two weeks ago, we heard from the first section of the
Epistle of James where he taught that accepting what comes from God
means doing what He says and not being a respecter of persons or
status. These teachings point to the need for there to be no
discrepancy between what one receives from God and the way one puts it
into practice. Last week he heard from the second section where we
learned the central idea of his epistle: a faith which does not
translate into good works is a dead faith.
Today we hear from the third section where Saint James tells us to recognize the source of disagreement.
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.
These expressions also occur in the list of vices in 2 Corinthians
12:20: “For I fear that when I come I may find you not such as I
wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; that there may be
rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
In terms that emphasize the contrast with earthly wisdom, Saint James
gives a beautiful sketch of Christian wisdom which reminds one of the
beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10) and of Paul (Galatians 5:22-23).
18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.
This verse is ambiguous. The fruit of righteousness could either mean a
harvest that is just or a reward for just conduct. This harvest may be
sown either “for” or “by” those who make peace.
The connection with the previous verse is through the word
“peace.” By emphasizing peace James sums up, by contrast,
his condemnation of false wisdom and prepares the hearers for the
consideration of hostilities in the community which follows. Although
“wisdom” is not mentioned in the verse, the phrasing is
similar to the association of wisdom, peace and justice in Proverbs
4:1 Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Note the contrast with the last word of the previous verse: “peace.”
Is it not from your passions
Literally, “your pleasures” (see Titus 3:3)
that make war within your members? 2 You covet but do not possess. You
kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war.
The generality of verse 4:1 is now specified with examples. The
translation used for the New American Bible is a little weak. It is
better to take “kill” as the logical consequence of
“covet but do not possess” rather than pair
“kill” with “envy”. The footnote in the Revised
Standard Version says “you kill and you covet.”
You do not possess because you do not ask.
This is a negative echo of the gospel appeals to prayer (Matthew 7:7-11; Mark 11:24; John 14:13-14; 1 John 3:22).
3 You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
The proper approach to prayer is indicated in James 4:4, 7-10 (also 1 John 5:14; Matthew 6:33).
Gospel - Mark 9:30-37
The gospel reading for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time gave the first
of three instructions which Jesus gave to His apostles: That if you are
to be a follower of Jesus you must deny yourself, take up your cross
and follow in his steps. Today we hear from the second of His three
instructions. Remember, the apostles are receiving these instructions
in the sense in which they know that Jesus is the Messiah.
30 They left from there and began a journey through
Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
Just like His first instruction, He is teaching His apostles privately
prior to public revelation of His mission. The public ministry in
Galilee is over.
31 He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
Being “handed over (delivered)” will become increasingly
prominent as His passion story proceeds (see 14:21, 41; 15:1, 10, 15).
Although there may be some allusion to His betrayal by Judas, the more
basic meaning concerns the divine plan of salvation in which Jesus
death is pivotal.
and they will kill him,
In none of Mark’s passion predictions (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34) is the precise mode of Jesus’ death made clear.
and three days after his death he will rise.” 32 But they did not
understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
In light of the passion prediction we heard in the previous prediction,
and the explanations surrounding it, you would think they could hardly
fail to understand. The suggestion is that Mark is developing an
increasingly negative portrait of the disciples.
33 They came to Capernaum and,
Capernaum is Jesus’ base of operations in Galilee.
once inside the house,
What house is not clear. Matthew 4:13 notes that Jesus established a
residence in Capernaum and Mark 1:29 tells us that Peter had a home
there where his mother-in-law was. Perhaps they were one and the same
he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the
way?” 34 But they remained silent. They had been discussing among
themselves on the way who was the greatest.
Matthew 18:1 adds “in the kingdom of heaven” but here the emphasis appears to be the present group of disciples.
35 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
A similar teaching is in Mark 10:43-44. The ideal of leadership as
service will be exemplified by Jesus as the gospel story continues.
“Let vanity be unknown among you. Let simplicity and harmony and
a guileless attitude weld the community together. Let each remind
himself that he is not only subordinate to the brother at his side, but
to all. If he knows this, he will truly be a disciple of Christ”
[Saint Gregory of Nyssa (ca. A.D. 380), On The Christian Mode of Life].
36 Taking a child
The child is not so much a symbol of innocence or humility as someone
without legal status and therefore helpless. The child can do nothing
for the disciple; to receive the child is to do a good act for an
insignificant person, without hope of earthly reward.
he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it he said to
them, 37 “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name,
receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who
The idea behind the saying is that whoever receives someone’s
emissary receives the man himself. So whoever receives a child receives
Jesus, and whoever receives Jesus receives the Father who sent Jesus.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org