Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(as listed in the Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2018)

23 September. 25th Sunday

Saint Eunan, abbot; Saint Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio), priest (not celebrated this year)

1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20

The cruelty of the wicked against good people

[The wicked say to each other],
"Let us lie in wait or the righteous man,
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 man 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,
so 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."

Responsorial Psalm (from Ps 54)

Response: The Lord upholds my life

O God, save me by your name;
by your power, uphold my cause.
O God, hear my prayers;
listen to the words of my mouth. (R.)

For proud men have risen against me,
ruthless men seek my life.
They have no regard for God. (R.)

But I have God for my help.
The Lord upholds my life.
I will sacrifice to you with willing heart
and praise your name for it is good. (R.)

2nd Reading: James 3:16-4:3

Jealousy, ambition, and self-seeking contrasted to gentleness, mercy and peace.

Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your ravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

After predicting his passion, Jesus calls us to be like servants of all

Jesus and his disciples came from the mountain and began to go through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."


Welcoming his cross

The first reading today sounds like one of the Psalms that are applied to the story of Christ's passion or like one of the Servant songs in Isaiah. But in reality it comes from one of the latest books in the Bible, composed not in Hebrew but in Greek, in Alexandria (and not contained in the original Hebrew Bible). The situation of the righteous man who is insulted, tortured, or executed is one that is not confined to special religious texts; it is a situation that arises at all times. So the passion and death of Jesus, which he predicts to his disciples for the second time today, is not in itself an extraordinary destiny. Many people suffer worse and longer torture, detained for years in solitary confinement for example, and more painful and degrading deaths. Many are unjustly condemned and never vindicated, unlike Jesus. That Jesus dies as a martyr is again not something absolutely unique. Many people have been prepared to lay down their lives to resist injustice and oppression.What makes the passion of Christ unique is its saving role, expressed a little further on in Mark's Gospel in words that may well come from the lips of the historical Jesus himself: "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Some people today find the idea of the death of Jesus as a saving sacrifice, an atonement, to be objectionable, and it is caricatured as showing a cruel God torturing his son in order to avenge himself on humankind. We need to put aside such reaction to let the message of salvation claim our hearts and our minds. Jesus's life befits a Messiah, bringing healing and enlightenment to all. But his death brings salvation to the whole human race. God does not punish but grants healing and salvation to all by allowing his beloved Son to enter so deeply into our suffering, including the suffering people inflict on one another, and including the ultimate failure of death and dishonor. If we embrace the Messiah that God sets before us we will find also that the divine vindication of this Messiah, who is raised up from death, also becomes credible.

The minds of the disciples are completely elsewhere. The question that bothers them in their discussion is which of them will have the highest place in the Kingdom. It even gives rise to a quarrel. It is easy to laugh at them, but the laugh is on us. Called to follow Christ, we worry about tiny advantages and securities as if Christ never was. Jesus appeals to the disciples' ambition: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Indeed Jesus often appeals to our low level of thinking to inspire us with the ambition of imitating him, who came "not to be served, but to serve" (Mk 10:45).

"Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'" Today a wave of refugees sweeps across Europe. When we welcome these children we welcome the Son of Man, who had "nowhere to lay his head" (Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58), and in welcoming him we are welcoming God back into our dessicated lives. To welcome the suffering multitudes is also to welcome the Cross, and to discover its saving power, first shown in the community of love that it creates.

Why the child is important

St Mark portrays Jesus as a strange and disconcerting Messiah. That is how Jesus was experienced by Peter and Mark reflects the stages of Peter's gradual discovery of the Messiah. The life of Jesus unfolds as an enigma at the centre of which lie his Passion and death. That he comes from a modest, unpretentious background, that he presents himself without rank or title, without wealth or backing, that he makes no effort to command everybody's obeisance by means of some great cosmic sign — all of these are already disconcerting enough. All limits are exceeded, however, when he announces a most sinister ending of his life as being on the way. He is going to allow himself to be arrested, insulted and crucified like a common criminal. Two great questions dominate this Gospel: Who is Jesus? (from 1:14 to 8:30) and Where is he going? (from 8:22 to 16:8). The answer — that he is the Son of God — runs through the entire Gospel, but like an underground stream that cannot be heard unless one listens attentively.

When a pope or bishop takes a little baby from its mother's arms to raise it above the crowd, he is repeating something that Jesus did. This is not just a demonstration of kindness; it is a sign of the Kingdom and an indication of the values of Jesus. By this gesture, Jesus expresses something new. In the world of his day, only grown-ups deserved deference; Jesus gives it to the child. What is it in the child that merits this? Surely, it is that the child is full of joy and life, of spontaneity and confidence. The child is like Springtime, like the rising sun, the bearer of the future. Unless we become as little children, we cannot enter into God's Kingdom. What a disconcerting Messiah Jesus is! He never ceases to astonish us.

Jostling for the best places

We might expect better of the apostles than jostling for places. Although they had spent so much time in the company of Jesus, watched his behaviour and heard his teaching they were still wide of the mark in their views on status and service. Jesus himself set the pattern for us all. Though he was in the form of God.. he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (Phil. 2:6f.)

Mark shows Jesus predicting his passion three times within quite a short period of time. The first occurs in Caesarea Philippi just after Peter's profession of faith (8:31-33). The second (today's reading) is in Galilee just after the healing of the dumb man possessed by a demon (9:30-32). The third comes on the road to Jerusalem just after the teaching about leaving everything for the sake of the Gospel (10:32-34). These three predictions of the passion have been compared to the solemn tolling of a bell. Jesus is in the thick of his ministry but is progressing irrevocably towards Jerusalem where all was to be brought to fulfilment. Of these three accounts the one we have today is the simplest and for this reason is regarded as the most primitive. In each case the disciples misunderstand what Jesus is telling them. But they realise that things are slowly coming to a head and they want to be part of it, that's surely why they were arguing about who was the greatest. The disciples are slow on the uptake but gradually they begin to get the message. This news about a forthcoming passion is hard for them to grasp and that's why Jesus repeats it on several occasions.

We gather here in this Church week by week, we come here because of our faith and we do so in order to pray and worship God together. We are Christ's disciples in the world today we are trying our level best to live the way he wants us to live, we try to refrain from struggling for position, we try to live out the prescriptions of the Gospel in our daily lives. We know that we frequently fail, but with the help of God we pick ourselves up and start again in the knowledge that we are moving towards the goal for which we long so much.

If anyone wants to be first he must make himself last of all and servant of all. This teaching is at the heart of the Gospel. It is Jesus' recipe for discipleship. Notice also what it does NOT mean. It doesn't mean a Uriah Heep sort of humility. It doesn't mean putting yourself down all the time. Still, Jesus wants us to be of service of all. This sounds like a bit of a tall order but it is actually an essential part of following him. Our master gave his life for our human race. He valued each and every person, even the lowest of the low. He did so not always in the way they expected but he changed their lives for the better. His followers should do no less. To put it at its simplest we serve others in the way Jesus serves us.

Machtnamh: I gcoimhlint faoi na háiteanna is áirde (Jostling for the best places)

D'fhéadfaimis a bheith ag súil níos fearr ar na haspail ná mar a bheith ag dul i gcoimhlint leis na háiteanna is fearr. Cé gur chaith siad an oiread sin ama le Íosa, d'fhéach sé ar a iompraíocht agus chuala sé a theagasc, bhí siad fós i bhfad ar an marc ina dtuairimí ar stádas agus ar sheirbhís. Más mian le duine ar bith a bheith ar dtús, ní mór dó é féin a dhéanamh agus a sheirbheáil ar fad. Tá an teagasc seo i gcroílár an Soiscéil. Is é an t-oideas Íosa do dheisceabacht é. Fógra freisin cad a chiallaíonn sé NACH. Ní chiallaíonn sé go bhfuil suaimhneas Uriah Heep ann. Ní chiallaíonn sé tú féin a chur síos go léir. Mar sin féin, is mian le Íosa dúinn a bheith ar sheirbhís gach duine. Is cosúil le beagán ordú ard seo ach is cuid ríthábhachtach é a leanúint air. Thug ár máistir dá shaol dár gcine daonna. Chuir sé luach ar gach duine, fiú an ceann is ísle de na daoine íseal. Ní raibh sé amhlaidh i gcónaí ar an mbealach a raibh siad ag súil leo ach d'athraigh sé a saol níos fearr. Níor chóir a leanúna a dhéanamh níos lú. Chun é a chur ar an mbealach is simplí a dhéanaimid freastal ar dhaoine eile ar an mbealach a fhreastalaíonn Íosa dúinn.