Live His Way of Life

09-19-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

We often talk about "success" in our country. If you listen to some talking heads on the continuous news channels, it appears that success is usually tied up with wealth and money. In fact, on these programs only the rich are quoted or cited most often. This week's scriptures, in particular the Gospel are about what Jesus believed "success" to be.

Our first reading, which is from the Book of Wisdom, focuses our minds on the idea of the trials that "just one" must endure. The people in this story deeply resent this person who dares point out their mistakes. They ask out loud if the "just one" could stand for God and against threats of condemnation and death. Many people through the centuries have interpreted this passage as a prediction of the Passion of Our Lord, which Jesus himself tells us about in the Gospel of today. This is the second time that Jesus has predicted His Passion.

When we contrast the first reading and Gospel reading, we may conclude that the Gospel story may seem only to be a prophetic fulfillment to the first reading, but that is incorrect. There are some important differences. Note that the deliverance of Jesus into the hands of men is not accomplished by humans, as it occurs in the first reading, but it is part of his mission and also part of the wisdom and plan of God.

The beginning of today's Gospel passage contains many hints of foreboding and darkness. Note that Jesus is alone with his closest followers and announces his mission to fulfill God's will in a very scary and dark way. The atmosphere of the passage then quickly heightens and because the disciples do not understand, then it all becomes rather sad and deflated. The disciples use avoidance and end up arguing among themselves.

Jesus does not allow them to get away with their wrong and child-like behavior. Jesus dramatically makes his point by taking the hand of a small child and setting the child in plain sight, so they can't miss his intentions. Jesus tells his disciples that they must be childlike in order to make themselves open and of service to others. By the end of the passage Jesus has linked his message to them by the image and meaning of being a child who in that culture and time is a symbol for a servant because in Greek, the word for servant and child is the same.

The story of the roughly thirty-year life of Jesus is not a story of a "successful man". Little is really known of Him. We do know that he was an iterant preacher and probably had carpentry skills. He chose followers who were basically simple working men most of whom were illiterate. We know that He welcomed everyone and that especially the poor and powerless came to him. At one point, the poor in great numbers chased after Him, but sadly most of them in the end abandoned Him. Yet here we are today over two thousand years after with over one billion followers of Jesus Christ who believe in His message of hope, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. So maybe He was successful, maybe not in the ways that we seem to think matter, but in the ways that do matter. His success should cause us to look at our values and what our life means. We can have His success if we want and live His Way of Life and Message.