25th Ordinary Sunday (Year B)
First Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 Second Reading: James 3:16-4:3 Gospel Reading: Mark 9:30-37
“GOD UPHOLDS OUR LIFE IN MOMENTS OF SUFFERING AND DEATH AND CARRIES US TO ETERNAL LIFE!”
This is an amazing true story, about the mother of a 10 day old baby who one day heard an explosion. The mother ran into the bedroom but the baby wasn’t there. She was puzzled to see the window open—it was a very cold night—but before she could make the connection between the empty crib and the open window, a fire engulfed the bedroom and the mother rushed out of the house with the other children. The baby was never found; and the investigators eventually concluded that the fire consumed the baby. But the mother never believed it.
Six years later, the mother happened to be attending a birthday party. There she met a bright-eyed, energetic six-year-old girl who looked very much like her own children; and she began to feel that this child might be her daughter. So pretending the little girl had gum in her hair, she actually pulled a few strands of hair and then contacted the police. The police lab tested the hair samples and found that the girl’s DNA matched the mother’s. The little girl was indeed her daughter. The police investigated and found out that the little girl was kidnapped six years before, and that the kidnapper set fire to the bedroom to distract from the abduction.
Now the point of this bizarre yet true story is simple – Evil and suffering mysteriously befall the innocent family – all of a sudden the baby disappears, but the mother never gives up on finding her child. And despite all kinds of disappointments and discouragements, she continues to hope. And almost miraculously she finds her daughter six years later.
In a similar way, God loves us and never gives up on us – in the midst of evil & suffering, problems & difficulties, failures and disappointments, threats & fear to the point of death - when we are lost to him or wander away from him, he relentlessly pursues us; and he pursues us until he catches up with us and leads all of us to our ultimate destiny. So, with great faith & hope in him we acclaim - “God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death, and carries us to eternal life!”
Now, the Word of God just proclaimed in the First Reading of today from the Book of Wisdom takes us back to the wisdom literature of ancient Israel, a collection of sayings about how to live and behave. Here the author speaks about a person, 'the suffering servant,' who always tries to do what is right and fair in his relationships with others and how do some so-called “enemies” or “evildoers” react? They plan to torture & torment him and want to kill him. “Let’s see whether God will rescue him,” they say. This passage may invite us to ask: Why do the wicked seem to prosper and the good suffer? Or to put it another way, why do bad things happen to good people?
In the Second Reading of today from the Letter of St. James, St. James asks: Why do some people choose evil over good? Why selfish ambition at the expense of others, why unjustifiable wars, random violence, thievery of one kind or another, great and small?
Christianity says simply that people are basically good but that there is something not quite right with us. People do indeed at times choose evil over good, wrong over right, falsehood over truth. Christianity calls this human condition “original sin.” Original sin quite simply is a lack of a relationship with God, a fall from grace. That is why human beings in every age cry out for grace, healing, reconciliation, friendship with God. They can only find grace, healing, reconciliation, and friendship in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh who made his dwelling among us.
In the Gospel Reading of today according to St. Mark, Jesus predicts for the second time his own passion, death and resurrection, soon after the event of his transfiguration on the mountain - “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” In this mystery, Jesus reveals to us a life beyond this earthly life; in his suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus reveals to us eternal life—our ultimate destiny - “God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death, and carries us to eternal life!”
Yes, the Word of God today brings us face to face with the eternal question: “Why suffering, why evil?” Why do the wicked seem to prosper and the good suffer? Why do bad things happen to good people?
In the biblical Book of Job, the author posed this very question. But the author never answered the question. Suffering, evil continues to be a mystery.
The Christian answer to the question “Why suffering, why evil?” acknowledges the tensions that are at the very core of human existence– the tension or pull between the self and other, between the rational and irrational, between the responsible and irresponsible within ourselves.
And then there is “death.” We are born at a moment in time and eventually will die. Yes, our lives are fragile and transitory–the Bible repeatedly emphasizes this theme. Added to these tensions within ourselves is sin.
The Book of Genesis captures graphically the theme of sin or the fall from grace. In the beginning, man and woman, so Genesis says, walked with God; they had friendship with God and one another. But somehow they lost that friendship. The Book describes very simply yet very powerfully that fall from grace. Man and woman hid from God; the man blamed the woman for their misfortune; and even nature worked against them and their projects.
Yes, there is indeed something not quite right here. How else do we explain man’s inhumanity to his fellow human beings: violence, war, disease, hunger, injustice, death, and so forth.
Christianity emphatically says that there is no human solution to this human condition. It goes on to say there is a power beyond us – 'GRACE' — which can overcome this alienation, heal this brokenness, reconcile this estrangement, and this power beyond us is not indifferent to us. Rather this power is indeed a good and compassionate God who became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and is alive in our midst by the power of the Holy Spirit. For, from St. John's Gospel we know that, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in him , will not perish but will have eternal life.” So, it is in Jesus that we find the true meaning of suffering, who through his suffering and death brought salvation to humankind. There is a necessary link between 'suffering' and 'redmption.' Of course, there is no crown without a cross; no gain without pain.
Now, the same good and compassionate God invites us today - you and me, to live out a life of discipleship with Jesus, which implies total self-renunciation, carrying of one's daily cross and following him. So, let us try from now on, to do the best we can in ordinary things - being ever faithful to Jesus, while patiently bearing and unselfishly loving one another. Let us call to mind that amazing story of the mother who never gave up on finding her child. God too never gives up on us, no matter how far we wander. Let us not forget the Good news of today: “GOD UPHOLDS OUR LIFE IN MOMENTS OF SUFFERING AND DEATH AND CARRIES US TO ETERNAL LIFE!”