Sunday Scripture readings, Sept. 19, 2021, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Wis 2:12, 17-20 Psalm 54:3-6, 8
2) Jas 3:16-4:3 Gospel: Mk 9:30-37
Strive for holiness to bless others with good fruits of mercy, gentleness and peace
Few people reached out in love of poor, abandoned children as St. Teresa of Kolkata did. Known for her radical love of the poorest of the poor and her embrace of a life of poverty and total trust in God, this saintly woman rescued and cared for orphaned, abandoned and destitute children around the world.
She fed starving children struck by famines in Ethiopia, comforted young victims of radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and rushed to the aid of earthquake survivors in Armenia.
When the media asked for explanations of why she and her religious sisters embraced destitute children, the elderly poor and the suffering, Mother Teresa once said, “We are not social workers, not teachers, not nurses or doctors, we are religious sisters. We serve Jesus in the poor. … Our life has no other reason or motivation.”
One story is told of her dedication to care for poor children. As one of the bloodiest sieges of Beirut unfolded in 1982, Mother Teresa persuaded military leaders in Israel and Palestine to stop fighting for a few hours. The temporary cease-fire allowed Mother Teresa and her sisters to rescue some 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital.
Many of the disabled children were neglected and barely able to walk. But with the courage and love of Mother Teresa and her sisters, these children were given a new lease on life. They could join in the psalmist’s prayer, “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life.”
Her life and her religious community, the Missionaries of Charity, were dedicated to putting into action the Gospel words of Jesus who points to a child and says, “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.”
The fruit of holiness is peace, we are told in the second reading. Our striving for holiness of life blesses those around us with the good fruits of mercy, gentleness and peace, witnessed in the lives of the saints. By contrast, “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” As the Gospel of Matthew says, “By their fruits you will know them.”
Jesus tells his disciples that he will be handed over and killed but that he will rise again after three days. His words are not easy to understand. But instead of reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ words, the disciples begin to argue about who is the greatest among them!
Ambition, not discipleship, was foremost in their hearts and minds.
Jesus turns the disciples’ ambitious yearnings upside down. He tells them that the path to greatness is the way of humility and service when he says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Today God’s word invites us to reflect on how we might imitate the humility and sacrificial love of Jesus as we pray with confident faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
How are you called to imitate the humble, sacrificial love of Jesus?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.