25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
19th September, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
A Community that Embraces the Least Privileged.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: We gather to remember the passion and death of Jesus, and to celebrate his resurrection with joy. He calls us to move beyond rivalry and conflict, to be true followers of the Christian way. There is a difference between being childish and being childlike. We are called to imitate the simple honesty and transparency of a small child who can sometimes recognise truths that adults have not noticed.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Wisdom 2:12.17-20
Introduction to the reading: The book of Wisdom was written about 50 years before Christ and was addressed to a group of Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt. In this pagan environment, some were tempted to abandon their religious beliefs and practices. In today’s passage, an unidentified person, referred to as the “just one,” challenges them to remain faithful to their traditional values. Early Christians thought this person sounded a lot like Jesus.
A reading from the Book of Wisdom.
Ungodly people said:
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous person,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law
and accuses us of sins against our training.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous person is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 54:3-4.5.6 & 8 (R. cf. 6b)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. Behold, the Lord is the upholder of my life.
O God, save me by your name;
by your power, defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
For the proud have risen against me,
and the ruthless seek my life.
They have no regard for God.
See, I have God for my help.
The Lord sustains my soul.
I will sacrifice to you with willing heart,
and praise your name, for it is good.
R/. Behold, the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Second Reading: James 3:16-4:3
Introduction to the reading: Today we continue a series of readings from the letter of James. This part of the letter deals with sins that threaten harmony in a Christian community.
A reading from the Letter of Saint James.
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, open to reason,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without uncertainty or insincerity.
And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.
What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you?
Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?
You desire and do not have;
so you kill.
And you covet and cannot obtain;
so you fight and wage war.
You do not have, because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly,
to spend it on your passions.
The word of the Lord.
God has called us through the Gospel,
to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
At that time:
Jesus and his disciples went on from the mountain
and passed through Galilee.
And he would not have any one know it;
for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,
“The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men,
and they will kill him;
and when he is killed,
after three days he will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to ask him.
And they came to Capernaum;
and when he was in the house he asked them,
“What were you discussing on the way?”
But they were silent;
for on the way they had discussed with one another
who was the greatest.
And he sat down and called the twelve;
and he said to them,
“If anyone would be first,
he must be last of all and servant of all.”
And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them;
and taking him in his arms, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but him who sent me.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
At the screening of the film “Mother Teresa”, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar, rose from his seat to introduce St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) to an elite gathering of the representatives of all member countries of the U.N. He needed only one sentence for his introduction: “I present to you the most powerful woman in the world!”
Mother Theresa’s power was the power of humble and sacrificial Christian service!
For many years, the world watched, admired, and loved this small, elderly nun, always dressed in a blue-bordered white sari, as the incarnation of humble and sacrificing Christian service. She was the living proof of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel that real greatness lies in serving others. She did this with love and compassion.
Beginning in 1962, she was given several awards, national and international, in recognition of her greatness, attained through the humble service given to the “poorest of the poor.” On 5th September, 1997, the day of the death of this saint, Pope St. John Paul II said: “Mother Teresa marked the history of our century with courage. She served all human beings by promoting their dignity and respect, making them feel the tenderness of God.”
When you catch a child with their hand in the biscuit tin, and ask, “What are doing?” What can say after being caught red-handed? Nothing – so we remain silent. That is what happened to the disciples today when Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”
Jesus and his disciples, “left from the mountain.” Peter, James and John had just witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the high mountain and the cure of the possessed boy before a large crowd. The witnesses to the miracle got excited by what they had seen, their numbers were growing and the disciples chests were swelling with pride for Jesus – and themselves!
The disciples must have had dreams of grandeur about being Jesus’ followers. That’s why Jesus asked them what they were arguing about “on the way.” They were arguing about who was the greatest. When we hear the phrase “On the way”, it symbolises being on the Christian “way.” The followers of Jesus were in a power struggle “on the way.”
This is a real human experience. Most of us have experienced power struggles our parishes, at the PTA’s of schools, in the workplace, at social clubs, and especially on national and international levels. “On the way,” we even find power struggles among ourselves in groups of family and friends. In other words, what false notions are distracting us from a more sincere following of Jesus and his way?
Mark gospel was the first of the gospels to be written. Mark would have been very close to the life of Jesus. Later gospels will smooth over the rough edges of Jesus’ disciples. But in Mark the disciples were all-too-human. They showed the mistakes and flaws so evident among us humans.
The disciples seem to reluctantly follow behind Jesus “on the way.” They drag their heels as Jesus, while making his journey to Jerusalem, predicts the suffering that lies ahead for himself and anyone wishing to follow him. What he tells them about his suffering and death should surely cause his disciples to stop arguing about who is the greatest among them.
The disciples were thinking of royal grandeur and earthly triumph, about “who was the greatest?” No wonder they were silent when Jesus questioned them. They were embarrassed having been caught reaching into the biscuit tin! Thankfully, Jesus does not give up on us sometimes-dense, hard-headed disciples. Jesus sits down, like a patient teacher, called the Twelve to him, and he gives them and us his core teaching about leadership in his community. Jesus is also speaking to the future leaders of the community.
They want to be first in importance and Jesus tells them just how to do that – be leaders in a special way. “If anyone wants to be first, they should be the last of all and the servant of all.” That’s not our usual way. We put the “dignitaries” at the main table in a banquet. We put them at the centre of attention.
In Church processions the dignitaries go last. The procession starts with the altar servers, then the deacons, then the priests, then bishops, then the Archbishops, then the cardinals, then the Pope. I guess that is a response to Jesus’ instruction about the first being last. But that has changed over the years because we have come to recognize the last person in the line as the most esteemed, and have noticed others taking their positions near the “least.”
In Jesus’ kingdom dignity comes from truly being the last. Dignity, by Jesus’ standards, comes from being a servant to every body. It also means being like a child. In Jesus’ time children were the property of their father, they had no rights before the law, no privilege or rank, they were like servants.
So, if someone comes up to you on the street and asks, “Have you accepted Jesus into your life?” According to today’s gospel, that means we have accepted Jesus’ way of life, being “the servant of all.” Well that’s not to my taste in life, is it to yours? These days we are taught to strive to get ahead, be the best, be first, not the last. I may be willing to be a servant to someone in need, but who is going to return the favour? That’s the way things work in the world of industry, school, politics and unfortunately, among some in the church as well.
I think that parents, with all the needs placed on them for caring and nurturing their children, have to respond in uncountable ways to be “servants” to their hungry, hurt and, at times, bewildered children. Good parents have done what we, in the kingdom of God, have all been called to do: be servants to others, especially those who have no status, and especially those who don’t have the ability to pay us back.
All this servant talk is a lot to swallow, unless we have “accepted Jesus” into our lives.
In Jesus is the mystery of God among us as one who serves. We remember how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.
In Jesus, God became the faithful, self-giving servant who gave his life for all.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“If anyone wishes to be first,
they shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
If someone comes up to you on the street and asks, “Have you accepted Jesus into your life?” – according to today’s gospel, that means we have accepted Jesus’ way of life, being “the servant of all.”
So we ask ourselves:
- What Christian “servant role” am I currently involved in?
- What helps me persevere in that role, even under trying conditions?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: Loving God, you invite us to share your life and love; we ask you to listen to the prayers we bring before you and to hear even the unspoken longings of our hearts .
We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops: (pause) that the challenge to care for those who are most vulnerable in our global community will be heard and will find a response in hearts which are open to love.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for political and business leaders of South Africa: (pause) that they will cooperate in peace with each other and work for the common good of all the people whom they are called to serve.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for parents as they try to encourage and support their children: (pause) that their good example will bring families ever closer together in peace and love.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for greater recognition of the harm being done to the earth: (pause) that world leaders and each of us may take meaningful steps to curtail the environmental damage of the planet and work to protect the poor and vulnerable from its effects.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for people who are sick, isolated and in need, and for the carers who support them: (pause) that they will find reasons for hope in this time of the covid pandemic.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Sonia Varas Julio and Jose Lucio Perestrelo who died during the week. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us Pray for the care of our common home:
God our Father,
we are grateful that,
from your communion of love,
you created our planet to be a home for all.
You made the Earth to bring forth
a diversity of living beings
that filled the soil, water and air.
Each part of creation praises you in their being,
and cares for one another
from our place in the web of life.
We remember that you call human beings
to keep your garden
in ways that conserve the abundance of life on Earth.
But we know that our will to power
pushes the planet beyond her limits.
Our consumption is out of harmony and rhythm
with Earth’s capacity to heal herself.
Habitats are left barren or lost.
Species are lost and systems fail.
Human families are displaced by insecurity and conflict.
Enlighten us with the grace to respond to your call
to care for our common home.
May we participate with your Holy Spirit
to renew the face of your Earth,
and safeguard a home for all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: O God,
protector of the poor and defender of the just,
in your kingdom the last become first,
the gentle are strong,
and the lowly exalted.
Give us wisdom from above,
that we may find in your servant Jesus
the pattern of true discipleship
and the grace to persevere in following him,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.