One of the ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to our needs is through liturgical readings. Listen carefully at Mass this weekend. The readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time talk of no ordinary time. The Book of Wisdom calls listeners to prepare seeking truth in Christ and his Church. The Letter of James identifies roots of disorder. The Gospel of Mark calls one to live last in the greatness of serving others first.
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom speaks about people rejecting immortality and justice. In a way all too familiar today, the Old Testament reading recounts such denial disguised as a welcome, reasonable challenge: “Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him” (Wisdom 2:17).
There is nothing wrong in testing what others say for truth. Do we not seek the Way, the Truth, and the Life, looking both to faith and science for tools to test (cf. John 14:6)? But everything can go wrong when we taint our test by giving into our deepest desires to know the future with greatest certainty. Christians know that the price paid for striking that dark bargain is ultimately to turn away from Christ and the lessons that he continues to teach through his Church.
Roots of Disorder
The second reading from the Letter of James addresses sources of disorder. The New Testament reading presents a reality where “jealousy and selfish ambition exist” (James 3:16). Sound familiar?
Understandably, many people seek to be first in all that they pursue. There is no shame in admitting motivation comes at times from seeking recognition among our peers. It also isn’t hard to recognize when resentment rears its ugly head in seeing other succeed while we struggle.
But our hearts definitely darken when we elevate ambition to the level of our only desire. When we do, suddenly our loving gaze turns inward. Jealousy consumes us. History is littered with moments when ambition and jealousy metastasized across entire nations. The search for peace gave way to dark forces seizing scarce resources, controlling greater spaces, or attempting to dominate other people.
Lastly, the Gospel of St. Mark presents a Christian definition of greatness. The account found Jesus answering a long debate among the Twelve Apostles about who was the greatest among them. The Lord said: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Notice also how Jesus puts into practice what he preached immediately. Embracing a small child, He taught: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37).
As you place yourself, your family and your community in the hands of the Father, ask for the graces to begin building within you, your families, and your communities a place where jealousy and selfish ambition find no safe haven. Reflect on how readily you prepare and how steadily you seek wisdom in prayer. Consider what you can do to help a world disordered in spirit. And pause a moment to find in children the loving greatness of God.