25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
Today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom is a little different from most of the other scripture passages we hear when we come to church. I mean, most of the time we hear “God says”, or “Wisdom says”, or “Jesus said” or similar statements, but rarely do we come to church and hear “The wicked say.”
What we have to do is ask ourselves if the opposite of what the wicked want is true about ourselves
According to today’s reading and some of the preceeding verses, the wicked say: “Down with the poor and honest man! Let us tread him under foot; Let us show no mercy for the widow and no reverence for the grey hairs of old age.” Do we, personally, do anything to raise up and support the poor, the lonely, the sick, or the elderly?
It continues: “For us let might be right. Weakness is proved to be good for nothing.” Who is the weakest among us? The children that Jesus talked about in the Gospel? The unborn?
“Let us lay a trap for the just man; he stands in our way and sets himself against our doings. He knows God, so he says, and styles himself as a servant of the Lord. He is a living condemnation of all our ideas.” Do we condemn the evils of the world? Things like of child pornography or abortion or stem cell research from aborted fetuses? Do we speak up when we hear people slandering things of our faith that we hold near and dear to our hearts, or taking the Lord’s name in vain?
It goes on: “The very sight of him is an affliction to us, because his life is not like other people’s and his ways are different.”
Hhmmmm. “The very sight of him is an AFFLICTION to us, because his life is not like other people’s and his ways are different.”
You know, that used to be a point of pride among Catholics. Our ways WERE different and that scared people. I’ve even heard some pretty convincing arguments that the size of the growing Catholic population scared some people enough, back before and up to the time Kennedy was elected president, that they actually started to plot ways to make a contraceptive lifestyle more agreeable to Catholics so that we wouldn’t “take over” the country. Contraception among Catholics just didn’t “happen.” But they succeeded in dividing us. Before that there were no “conservative” Catholics or “liberal” Catholics, there were just “Catholics.” But that’s another story.
The real question for us today is: Are our lives any different from the lives of anybody else? I’ll come back to that in a minute. But first, the passage finishes:
“With revilement and torture let us condemn him to a shameful death, that we may have proof of his gentleness and try him of his patience.”
“Try him of his patience and let him prove his gentleness.” I can think of a few instances just in the past few months where some people have done this publicly. Their witness of faith was such a beautiful example for the world and in such contrast to people in similar situations that I think it had the wicked cowering over in a corner somewhere, at least for a moment.
What I am thinking of are the way certain Catholic families responded to the tragic and shameful murders of certain members of their families. The first was the family of the ex-priest who was killed in the shooting rampage in Wilkinsburg. While some families were calling for blood, his family expressed their belief in the joy of the resurrection and forgiveness and compassion for the killer and his family.
The other example that comes to mind was the passionate courtroom plea by the mother of one of the Franciscan University students who was tortured and killed, that her son’s killers not be executed. And, uh, who is it that we have trouble forgiving in our lives? I only hope I could be as forgiving. I hope I never have to try.
They say that evil or wickedness in our lives causes spiritual blindness. But what causes wickedness?
The Book of Wisdom explains that wickedness comes from not knowing God’s purpose and not understanding the true destiny of mankind. The cause of wickedness is the inability to accept that we were created for fellowship with God and that everything that we do should be done with that goal in mind. Fellowship with God.
I ask a minute or so ago if our lives were any different from the lives of everybody else. Well they should be different, because we should ALWAYS be asking ourselves those two questions: What is God’s purpose; what is his will; for the world and for ourselves? The Apostles in today’s Gospel didn’t understand and it says that they were afraid to ask. Why do you think they were afraid to ask Jesus? Do you think that they were afraid they might be challenged to go beyond themselves? To leave the comfort zone of their current lives and do and say things that would fly in the face of the rest of the world? Maybe causing them ridicule and pain? Are we afraid to question because we might be challenged to change our lives?
Well we shouldn’t be! Because we understand something that the Apostles didn’t until after the resurrection. We understand that we will find our destiny in the true eternal, joy of heaven. And that should give us all the hope we need. The hope to ask the questions; the hope to accept the answers and the hope that will allow us to be challenged to live our lives according to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So that in the end we’ll find our destiny in the true joy of heaven.