25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2021 (R. 1: Wisdom 2: 12, 17- 20; Psalm 54: 3- 4, 5, 6- 8; R. 2: James 3: 16- 4: 3; Gospel: Mark 9: 30- 37)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
A little boy was diligently looking for his missing coin on the lawn in front of his home. His mom who just returned from the grocery store joined him in the search. After a few minutes of not finding the coin, his mom asked, “Where exactly did you drop the coin?” The little boy replied, “Under the sink in the kitchen.” His surprised mom asked, “Why then are you outside looking for what was lost in the kitchen?” He said, “Because there is no light in the kitchen.”
“A problem well identified,” they say, “is a problem half solved.” The first step to recovery is getting the diagnosis right. We continue our second reading this Sunday from the Letter of St. James. We said two Sundays ago that James is a very practical person. Last Sunday, he challenged his community that no one can claim to have faith if it is not shown in the person’s way of life. Today, he is tracing the origin of conflicts to the heart. He writes, “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” As the saying goes, nemo dat quod non habet (No one gives what he doesn’t have). A person cannot give you peace if that person does not have inner peace. Before the terrorist can terrorize you, he must have gone through a lot of self-torture. And so, for James, the problems in the society will only be solved when individuals are ready to go back home and fix themselves.
In the Gospel passage, Jesus is taking another very decisive step. He has left the North where he was a lot safer, and he is now facing Jerusalem in the South where the Cross is awaiting him. For the second time, he prepares his Apostles for what is coming ahead, this time he is more graphic than the first time. But his Apostles are not ready to deal with the reality on ground, they are not asking him to explain for fear that he will give them more details that will make them more uncomfortable. Rather than reflect on the very important message Jesus is giving them regarding his coming passion, death, and resurrection, they decide to distract themselves with the question of who is the greatest.
Jesus knows they are shying away from reality. He asks them what they were arguing about. He knows, but he wants them to diagnose their own illness. They remain silent. This is a silence of shame. The truth about us comes to light when we are before Jesus. It sounded very ok to discuss who was the greatest when they felt Jesus was absent, but as soon as it was brought before Jesus, they saw how stupid it was. Imagine how different we would be if we do everything before Jesus. But the truth is that nothing we think, say, or do is hidden from him. Jesus knew exactly what they were arguing about.
Jesus then sits down, calls the twelve to himself, and begins to say to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” By sitting down, Jesus is indicating how seriously this teaching should be taken. Rabbis sit down to teach as Rabbis. He then brings a child before them and says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me…” By bringing the child before them, he is challenging them to discover the child in them; he is sending them back home to be the child they were, he is sending them back home to pick up their original innocence.
My dearly beloved in Christ, it is the same message that is being passed on to us today. It is time for us to go back home and get it right before coming out again. If we continue to search for our lost coin outside because it is dark under the kitchen sink, we will never find it since we dropped it in the kitchen. If we continue to look outside for the solution to our crisis, we will never get it right. One of my professors in the seminary would say to us in those days, “My dear seminarians, my primary concern here is not to form you to become priests but to become human beings. There are already so many priests out there but very few human beings. I don’t even care if you are Catholics or not, Christians or not, I just need you to become human beings and the world will be a better place.” He would add, “Unfortunately, I don’t have all it takes to make you human beings, the main job was supposed to have been done in your homes, but I am now a victim of the failure of some of your families.”
My dear friends, let us go back home and be sure that those coming from our homes are first human beings. Remember, “No one gives what he doesn’t have.” Show your children how to be loving and compassionate human beings and they will grow up to see the world through the lens of love and compassion. Bring back family dinners where you all sit at the table together without the distraction of cell phones. Talk to each other and truly listen to what is weighing your child, your spouse, or your parent down. Don’t put date nights with your spouses on the back burner, be there for one another, strengthen and support one another. Let us take back our families and our values. Let’s bring Jesus back as the center of our families where he belongs. The journey inward is a very difficult one, but it is a sure way to true happiness. May the Lord bless the works of our hands, through Christ our Lord. Amen.