God Made You to Be His Servant on Earth and His Heir in Heaven

User’s Guide to Sunday, Sept. 19

When seeking help from the ‘wisdom from above,’ we will live in gentleness and peace.
When seeking help from the ‘wisdom from above,’ we will live in gentleness and peace. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Sept. 19, is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37.

The readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Year B cycle from the Gospel of Mark and the Letter of James remind us that the only way to have peace in a fallen world is to serve others.

In the Gospel (Mark 9:30-37), the disciples, after hearing Jesus predict his own death, begin to argue over who among them is the greatest. Jesus speaks to the Twelve, explaining, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). The only privilege in being first in the Kingdom is to be the one who gives of oneself more than anyone else. And Jesus, as God, is the one who has given the most, the one who is truly the servant of all. He shows us how to be a servant of all by holding up a child, a helpless, dependent being, as the one to serve. When we receive and love a child in the name of Jesus, we receive him and his Father who sent him.

James elaborates on this theme in the second reading from his letter (3:16-4:3). He condemns the jealousy and selfish ambition that the disciples demonstrate in the Gospel, but also that each of us can recognize in our own hearts. 

We have conflicts with those we hold dear and with those we encounter online and elsewhere in the world. We battle our own selves to spend our days in temperance and prudence. We often strive for what is not worth having, forgetting that we are meant to live in peace with God, serving others. 

When seeking help from the “wisdom from above,” we will live in gentleness and peace. We will show mercy and bear good fruits, living with constancy and sincerity (see James 3:17-18). These things we must seek, guarding ourselves from temptations to disturb the peace within us that comes from God. 

The first reading (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20) gives us a look at how the wicked think about those seeking to live close to God. They see those who seek truth as “obnoxious to” them and as those whom they are prepared to revile and torture (Wisdom 2:12). While it is easy to apply these words to ourselves and get in a defensive posture before the world, we would do well to pause and meditate with this passage.

The words of the wicked should be applied first of all to Jesus: “For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hands of his foes.” “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him” (Wisdom 2:18, 20). They are similar to the jeering movement from Handel’s Messiah, which cites Psalm 22, “He trusted in God.” Why does God not deliver his own Son from such death if he delights in him? But then the words of the Gospel come back to us, “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant to all” (Mark 9:35). Jesus is the first of all, and we as his servants must follow in his footsteps.

We are called to face the persecutions of this world as Jesus did, not in fighting and selfishness, but in sowing righteousness in peace (James 3:18). The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6, 8) leads us to plead to God to save us and defend our cause. We must look at the example of Jesus and freely offer sacrifice (Psalm 54:6), trusting that while we might not have the satisfaction of being justified on earth before those who persecute us, the Lord will show us mercy and uphold our lives despite our own failings.

Oscar Wergeland, “Service in a German Village Church,” ca. 1880

This Sunday, I’ll Be Going to Church. Will You Join Me?

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC 2181]