Today is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but it is also Catechetical Sunday. I want to thank parents, who are the first educators of their children in the ways of faith, as well as our school teachers, PSR catechists, our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechists and aides, baptismal and marriage preparation coordinators, RCIA teachers and sponsors, Youth Group leaders and core team, as well as the whole parish staff, for helping bring the joy of the Gospel to so many.
It is nearly two years since my arrival, and I have also been impressed by parishioners’ love for the Word of God and the numerous bible study groups in the parish. Turning to this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear Jesus proclaim His passion, death and Resurrection to the disciples (cf. Mk 9: 30-31) for a second time. Mark highlights the strong contrast between his mindset and that of the Twelve Apostles, who not only do not understand the Teacher’s words and clearly reject the idea that he is doomed to encounter death (Mk 8: 32), just as Simon Peter was rebuked last week for thinking not as God does but as men do.
This week, the Twelve veer further off course, discussing which of them is to be considered “the greatest” (Mk 9: 34) after Jesus has announced His Passion. Not one even thinks about consoling Him or trying to understand what this means. Jesus patiently explains His logic to them. The logic of love makes itself service to the point of the total gift of self: “If anyone would be first, he must be last and servant of all.” (Mk 9: 35) This is the logic of Christianity, which responds to the truth about man created in God’s image, but, at the same time, contrasts with human selfishness, a consequence of original sin.
Every human person is attracted by love – which ultimately is God himself – but often errs in the concrete ways of loving; thus, an originally positive tendency but one polluted by sin can give rise to evil intentions and actions. The second reading from the Letter of St James states: “Wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity”, concluding, “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas 3: 16-18)
In the Gospels, it appears that the Apostles’ interior attitudes were marked first by ambition and secondarily by jealousy. They were thinking in worldly ways, according to worldly wisdom, which the letter of James describes as “earthly, unspiritual, devilish,” and can be recognized by the fact that it provokes jealousy, disputes, disorder and every vile practice (see 3: 16). On the contrary, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.” (3: 17)
These seven qualities are listed in accordance with their usage in the Bible. One that stands out is purity, which is a reference to holiness, the transparent reflection of God in the human soul. We see this virtue in the lives of the saints and especially in the Virgin Mary. Purity is listed first, almost as a premise of the others. Like God from whom it comes, wisdom does not need to be forcefully imposed for it possesses the power of truth and love that are attractive in themselves. Wisdom is not the same thing as knowledge; rather wisdom is, as St. Bonaventure describes it, “knowledge infused with charity.”
Although society is very technical and efficient, I cannot say that it is wiser than previous generations. In fact, with the growing rejection of God, we may well be embarking on an age of foolishness. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, to pray for us that we may always seek to see things more the way God sees them.
Inscribed throughout the walls of the seminary is the phrase: Proficiebat sapientia, et aetate et gratia apud Deum et homines. (Lk 2:52) He grew in wisdom, age, and grace before God and men. May we do the same.
This week I ask parishioners to begin praying the
St. Michael the Archangel Novena. Two years ago, amid the crisis, the whole parish engaged in this practice and, I believe, it has yielded fruit. Sign up on Flocknote to receive the daily prayers – https://bit.ly/StMichaelNovena I ask that you not only pray for our parish but also for the Archdiocese as it undertakes the Beacons of Light initiative (www.beaconsaoc.org).
Although I have spoken about it and we have included numerous updates in our outlets, as well as hanging big posters on all the church doors, no one seems to be paying much attention. Due to demographic changes and the shortage of clergy, the 210 parishes of the Archdiocese will be grouped into 60 “Families of Parishes”, each with its own pastor. Thus, there will be only 60 pastors for the whole Archdiocese. On September 29th, the priests of the Archdiocese will see the groupings and on the 30th, school principals will see them. There will then be a three-week period of public comment on the proposals. I hope to hold a Town Hall here during the period of public comment. The coming years will be difficult for the people of the Archdiocese. Your prayers are very much appreciated.