Reflection on the Lectionary Readings for
September 23, 2018
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
This week’s readings shed further light on the contrast between the worldly wisdom that Jesus rebuked in Peter last week, and the wisdom of God, modeled perfectly for us by Christ. They teach us that living as Christian stewards requires us to swim against the tide of our me-first culture and stake out a path for our lives that may be quite different from of that of our neighbors, friends or co-workers.
Our first reading comes from the Book of Wisdom, written about 50 years before the coming of Christ. It predicts the reaction some would have to our Savior’s life, saying that many would find His goodness and teachings “obnoxious” — particularly when He calls them out for their own violations of God’s ways. If we, as Christian stewards, are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, then we can expect this same type of reaction at times. Like Jesus, we are to respond with patience.
The second reading, once again from the letter of St. James, also details the contrast between human nature versus “wisdom from above.” When we give in to our natural inclinations to jealousy and selfish ambition, we can expect the negative consequences they bring — “disorder and every foul practice.” On a global scale we can expect (and indeed see) wars erupting due to selfishness and untamed greed.
In contrast, when we seek to live as Christ lived and think as He thinks, our minds and hearts will be pure. Our lives will become “peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruit.” What an inspiring way of life. Certainly worth the risk of being labeled “obnoxious” by some from time to time.
So how do we fight our tendency toward egotism and selfishness? How can we live not as the world advises but in the wisdom from above? What can we do to lead a Christ-like life?
Jesus shows us one way in today’s Gospel. “Taking a child, He placed it in their midst, and putting His arms around it, He said to them, ‘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.’”
In this context Christ is speaking not only of youngsters, but all “little ones,” those who are vulnerable or needy in any way — through poverty, physical or mental illness, advanced age, difficult family situations — the brothers and sisters St. Teresa of Calcutta would call “Jesus in distressing disguise.”
They are all around us if we open our eyes. Like Jesus, we can put our arms around the little ones in our community and channel some of our energy, ambition and talent towards them.
Giving the best of ourselves to these brothers and sisters may be a little messy at times. It may put us in situations that are far outside our comfort zones. Maybe our colleagues and neighbors will not understand our actions. We may even seem obnoxious to some folks. But in reaching out to little ones in Jesus’ name, it is Jesus Himself we are touching. And that is a most privileged way of life.
This week ask the Lord for the wisdom from above to notice the little ones in your neighborhood, community, or this parish and to show you concretely how you can reach out to them. Take at least one step. You will be stepping closer to Jesus Christ Himself.