Christ Blessing the Children, Uncut Mountain Supply.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “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.” Mark 9:35-37.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting material.
You must have heard that “Never a good deed goes unpunished” or “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, and so on. Which of us has thought of one of these – or both – at certain times? I certainly have, and wondered sometimes why things must be so. Today’s gospel has Jesus giving another indication that the result of his mission would be disaster and death. In fact, at one point during his mission he actually asked “which of these [good] actions are you punishing me for?” (John 10:32). He had aligned himself with the Father, which people took as blasphemy, but Jesus pointed out that all he said and did was in the name of the Father, including his miraculous actions, hence “which of these actions are you stoning me for?” And today, he prophesies that his mission of love and mercy will end in disaster. Perhaps that thought lies behind some advice, also in Scripture: That when we do something good, it should be that only God knows it, (1 Peter 4:10) and that all the glory will go to God, hence what we did accrues to us in heaven (not here on earth), where moth and rust cannot destroy it. If we have done something worthy we are simply doing what we are required to do as God’s good servants, something specifically mentioned in today’s gospel (“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all”). Jesus indicates that receiving children, helping them, protecting them, the lowest members of society (or even any grown up in a lowly position) is the same as receiving him, and hence through him, the Father. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom, tells of the perils of doing the good and right thing, perhaps the ultimate source of being punished for doing the right thing. It seems to indicate that this is part of the human condition! It certainly applied to Jesus and his mission, almost perfectly. The second reading from James expands that to the extent of making war based on nothing more than envy, passions, unnecessary conflict. All of history certainly supports that (look at Nazi Germany’s mania for “lebensraum”, stealing others’ land simply because they wanted it). Evil has abounded throughout human history, as today’s readings testify.
But here we all are, trying to live as God’s good children. Well today we have a clarion call back to basics. Evil has always been with us. Even if we try to do the good thing, it might well rebound and hit us in the face. Well, then we are faced with a choice, give up or, as the song says, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGUsRGuZb6k). In sacramental terms, you offer all to God, reinvigorate yourself with the Eucharist, and perhaps Reconciliation if we have been tempted to abandon everything, or even consider the Sacrament of the Sick, and start all over again! Our strength does not come for any earthly source, but from the ultimate source, whence the Lord himself drew his strength. It is always there for us, like seeds or saplings, ready to grow and bloom and give us the strength to continue. Today’s readings are not indications of despair, but rather guide as to what to do in challenging circumstances, all of which are almost certainly familiar to us. They are the traps and pitfalls that life somehow or other puts in our way, a reminder of evil in the world. But we have the power to overcome evil; we are children of the light, and have the power of God around us and within us. Nothing can prevail against that.
Children of the Light, Biblepic.com.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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