Let us see if what he says is true, and test him to see what sort of end he will have.
18 For if the upright man is God's son, God will help him and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
19 Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his and put his patience to the test.
20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death since God will rescue him -- or so he claims.'
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 54:3-4, 5, 6-83
Arrogant men are attacking me, bullies hounding me to death, no room in their thoughts for God.Pause
4 But now God is coming to my help, the Lord, among those who sustain me.
5 May their wickedness recoil on those who lie in wait for me. Yahweh, in your constancy destroy them.
6 How gladly will I offer you sacrifice, and praise your name, for it is good,
7 for it has rescued me from all my troubles, and my eye has feasted on my enemies.
Reading 2, James 3:16--4:316
Wherever there are jealousy and ambition, there are also disharmony and wickedness of every kind;
17 whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it is also peaceable, kindly and considerate; it is full of mercy and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.
18 The peace sown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.
1 Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Is it not precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves?
2 You want something and you lack it; so you kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. It is because you do not pray that you do not receive;
3 when you do pray and do not receive, it is because you prayed wrongly, wanting to indulge your passions.
Gospel, Mark 9:30-3730
After leaving that place they made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know,
31 because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, 'The Son of man will be delivered into the power of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.'
32 But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.
33 They came to Capernaum, and when he got into the house he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?'
34 They said nothing, because on the road they had been arguing which of them was the greatest.
35 So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, 'If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.'
36 He then took a little child whom he set among them and embraced, and he said to them,
37 'Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'
“If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless.” So said by our great father Saint Augustine. True enough, humility is the only way towards God for it is through this way that God can be seen in the simplicity of faith’s vision.
The readings this Sunday are sign posts towards this realization. They point out to us the path of humility as a sure way to God: the image of the child in the gospel speaks of humility, of littleness and of simplicity. But, we ask, why did God chose the way of humility in order to show us the path toward him? With this question, let us try to discern God’s Word in the readings.
The suffering of a just man in the first reading reflects first the way of the suffering for the sake of God. Like the first reading last Sunday, today, the Book of Wisdom pictures the humbling experience of man who pursues for God: trapped, slandered and even tested his patience to drop his faith. But he did not give up; he persevered on this humbling experience just for the sake of keeping his eye to God. The reading is a reminder that to pursue God, we must pass through the alleys of humility.
James on the one hand shows us how jealousy and ambition ruins peace and harmony. The only attitude that would yield humanity with peace is the way of the above: the pursuit of wisdom. But James added. Wisdom is not an overpass for all difficulties. It is rather a way of the lowly. Wise persons know how to understand, they are full of compassion and good works and – the most important – they know how to listen. In the second reading, James therefore establishes that the way of wisdom is the way of down-to-earth and humble people for they know how to integrate themselves to the lowly. It is not like those who desire greatness through wrong motives – they end up into squabbles and fighting.
The Gospel from Mark culminates the message of humility. When the Lord himself predicts his passion to his disciples, he shows that his glorification with the Father is preceded by the way of humility: the way of the cross. But his disciples are in complete opposite to him. They thought that Jesus wins a flawless victory. His disciples are the reverse of what James had told us. The disciples did not understand simply because Jesus’ wisdom has not met their own standard. They thought Jesus as immensely powerful combatant. But Jesus shows them the humility of the messiah. The messiah who will win the salvation is like a child: humble, docile, open and persistent. In the image of the child Jesus tells his disciples to transpose their tenor of expectation into a lower key; this key is the key of humility. True greatness in God is reached on the level of real lowering of oneself. In this level, a person who pursues God’s level can shed his personal pride: his wrong motives, ill desires, and bad conducts. The act of humility passing through suffering, as Saint Paul said suffering produces endurance, this endurance produces character, and on the one hand this character produces hope that will not disappoint us because God’s love is poured in us (see Rom. 5:3). Humility therefore is a purified intention of the soul that reaches to the realm of God who himself touches our person in the very act of humility of his self-emptying.
Augustine is right to say that humility are steps to God. It is so because humility is the act of emptying ourselves of our own uncoordinated wishes. Cleansing ourselves from the purifying sufferings which is passed through the way of humility, man is able now to participate to the greatness of God. Jesus has shown us his example. May we understand now the message of his passion and death while we are walking through the road of Christian living. Humility is the message of his sufferings and that is why we must embrace humility so that our own effort of imitating our Lord will not be an inert meaninglessness.
Fray Ric Anthony Reyes, OSA