25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
September 19, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.





O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever

First Reading Wis 2:12,17-20

The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 54:3-4,5,6,8

R. The Lord upholds my life.

O God, by your name save me,
and by your might defend my cause.
O God, hear my prayer;
hearken to the words of my mouth.

For the haughty men have risen up against me,
the ruthless seek my life;
they set not God before their eyes.

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord sustains my life.
Freely will I offer you sacrifice;
I will praise your name, O LORD, for its goodness.

Second Reading Jas 3:16-4:3

Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure,
then peaceable, gentle, compliant,
full of mercy and good fruits,
without inconstancy or insincerity.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
for those who cultivate peace.

Where do the wars
and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions
that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive,
because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

Alleluia Cf. 2 Thess 2:14

Gospel Mk 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“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.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
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 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.”

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you been aware that God will take care of you even in a time of suffering?
  2. Where have jealousy and selfish ambition been present in your experience?
  3. Whom have you received as if it were the Christ?

Catena Nova

The Lord always alternated prophecies of his passion with the performance of miracles, so that he should not be thought to have suffered through lack of power. Therefore, after imparting the grievous news that men would kill him, he added the joyful tidings that on the third day he would rise again. This was to teach us that joy always follows sorrow, and that we should not be uselessly distressed by painful events, but should rather have hope that better times will come.... Now the disciples still saw things from a very human point of view, and they had been quarrelling amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest and the most esteemed by Christ. Yet the Lord did not restrain their desire for preeminent honor; indeed he wishes us to aspire to the most exalted rank. He does not however wish us to seize the first place, but rather to win the highest honor by humility. He stood a child among them because he wants us to become childlike. A child has no desire for honor; it is not jealous, and it does not remember injuries. And he said: “If you become like that, you will receive a great reward”.... You see then what great things humility, together with simplicity and guilelessness, can accomplish. It causes both the Son and the Father to dwell in us, and with them of course comes the Holy Spirit also (Theophylact).

Regard yourselves as ministers and servants, reflecting that you have more need to serve them than they have to be served by you. God could very well provide for them by other means even better than you (St. Angela Merici).

Practice those little, humble virtues which grow like flowers at the foot of the cross: helping the poor, visiting the sick, and taking care of your family with all the tasks that go with such things and with all the useful diligence which will not let you stand idly by, for great opportunities to serve God rarely present themselves while little ones are frequent (St. Francis de Sales).

God delights in those who make themselves little and become as little children; He keeps them near His person, and nourishes them with the milk of divine love, in order to prepare them for the sweet wine of holy love, which inebriates those who drink it; but it is a blessed wine, which gives daily more wisdom (St. Paul of the Cross).

To serve others, I need gentleness, humility, abjection, and charity. In every sick person I should see, not a human being, but Jesus, and so should show him respect, love, compassion, joy, and gratitude at being able to serve him, zeal and gentleness. I should serve the sick as I do the poor, making myself do the lowliest services for them all, as Jesus washed the apostles’ feet. I must tolerate the presence of evil people, as long as their wickedness is not corrupting others — as Jesus tolerated Judas (Bl. Charles De Foucauld).

It is well-known that humans can be competitive, sometimes just for the sake of being competitive. Competition tends to draw rivals close together, even if, and perhaps especially if they really hate each other. People who are close to each other to start with are often competitive just because they are close to each other. Sibling rivalry is an old story as the story of Cain and Abel tells us. René Girard attributes this phenomenon to mimetic desire. The reason for the rivals’ competition is because they want the same thing. This does not happen by chance. The desire of one person inspires the desire of another. Often the mutual desire is instantaneous, or at least seems so. In any case, when two or more people fight over who is the greatest, each person thinks it is the others who are copying him or her and never the other way around.... We see all these elements in a nutshell in today’s reading from Mark. Jesus tells his disciples that he will be betrayed “into human hands” and put to death. And then the disciples fight about who is the greatest, the very thing that has been happening on a broader scale in first century Palestine and so has made Jesus the designated victim of the social tensions around him. All of this suggests that mimetic desire is a bad thing but that is not so. Mimetic desire is built into humanity by our Creator and therefore, in itself, it is good. It is good because it is the basis of deep connections between people. It is through mimetic desire that our parents and other caregivers initiate us into the world by sharing their desires for certain foods and learning to share desires for the well-being of other people. This is the significance of what Jesus does when confronted with the tense silence that greets his question: “What were you arguing about on the way?” Jesus places a child in their midst and tells them: “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Jesus doesn’t reprimand his disciples as we think he should and as most of us would in his sandals. What Jesus does is very simple. Caring for a small child is the deepest manifestation of positive mimetic desire. Jesus subtly breaks up the closeness among the disciples that is brewing through their discord and instead unites them in their desire to care for the small child. This story puts before all of us the choice of how we will connect with the desires of other people: Will it be in rivalry or in nurturing others? (Abbot Andrew Marr)

If we make compromises while trying to live out the Gospel we will end up imbibing the spirit of the world, which leads to dominating others and is the enemy of God. On the contrary, Jesus calls us to the path of service. Jesus knew that along the way the disciples, because of ambition, had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. This quarrel by saying "I must go on, I must go up", is the spirit of the world. But today's First Reading of the Liturgy (James 4:1-10) also follows this aspect, when the Apostle James remembers that love for the world is the enemy of God. This anxiety of worldliness, this concern to be more important than others, saying, “No! I deserve this, that person doesn’t deserve it”: this is worldliness, this is the spirit of the world, and those who breathe in this spirit, breathe in the enmity of God.... And when someone wants to live the Gospel while making compromises, they ultimately find themselves with the worldly spirit, which always tries to make compromises in order to climb higher, to dominate, to be greater. So many wars and so many quarrels come precisely from worldly desires, from passions. It’s true that there are many wars in the world today. But “What about the wars among ourselves, like the one among the Apostles about who is the most important?” "Look at the career I've had: I can't go back now!" This is the spirit of the world, and this is not Christian. “No! It’s my turn! I have to earn more to get more money and more power”. This is the spirit of the world. And then, there's the wickedness of chatter: gossip. Where does it come from? From envy. The great envious one is the devil, we know that, it says so in the Bible. From envy. Through the devil’s envy evil enters into the world. Envy is a worm that drives you to destroy, to bad-mouth others, to annihilate others. In the discussion among the disciples, there were all these passions and so Jesus rebuked the them, and called them to become servants to all, and to take the last place....The greatest in the Church are those who make themselves servants of all, those who serve everyone, not those who have titles. And to help us understand this, He took a child and placed him among them; and embracing him with tenderness – because Jesus spoke with tenderness, He had so much – He said to them: “Whoever receives a child, receives me”. That is, whoever welcomes the most humble, the one who serves the most. This is the way. There is only one road against the spirit of the world: humility. Serving others, choosing the last place, not climbing the ladder. Therefore, we must not negotiate with the spirit of the world, we must not say: "I am entitled to this place, because, look at the career I have made". Worldliness, in fact, is God's enemy. On the contrary we need to listen to these very wise words of encouragement that Jesus speaks in the Gospel: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Pope Francis).


What Child Is This?

            Somewhere between Peter Pan’s idyllic childhood where one never grows up and W.C. Field’s jaundiced “I never met a kid I liked,” lies a more balanced approach to doing as the Lord instructs, namely to receive a child – because children bespeak something important about receiving him (cf. G).  I say balanced because I assume we are in fact meant to mature and I’m sure when I was a kid a neighbor or two might have been happy if we moved away!

            Still, there’s no question about it.  Children possess a charm that can disarm the most jaded among us.  So much so that we tend to idealize children, speaking of them in the most attractive terms.  Their innocence, their spontaneity, their trusting nature make us love and cherish them.  No wonder the Lord Jesus made a child the model for those who would be greatest in the kingdom of God.  Surely, he had in mind the wonderful qualities of children the day he took one placed it in the midst [of his disciples], and putting his arms around it . . . said to them, ‘Whovever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.’ (G)

            For Jesus is the ideal Child of God who comes to us lowly and gentle, with no other thought but to serve his brothers and sisters.  The best traits of children remind us of him whom God has sent.  So what makes us receive children with such tender affec­tion draws us to Jesus too, and through him, to God, who loves us as father and mother do.  The reverse is also true, God loves the child in me and in you.

            But let’s be realistic.  Not everything about children is sugar and spice.  There’s plenty that’s not very nice - like temper tantrums, stubborness, and defiance.   The words  “no” and “I don’t want to” are prominent features of children’s burgeoning vocabulary -- especially in response to a parent’s request.  So we shouldn’t be too romantic about childhood.  Like everything human, there’s a fair mix of goodness and mischief in every child.  As there is in all of us.

            So what about Jesus’ saying?  Was he wide-eyed about children, unaware the coin has another side?  I doubt it.  He was much too astute about human nature for that.  In fact, if you read a little further in Mark’s gospel, you’ll find parents bringing children to Jesus.  And the disciples were very annoyed.  Maybe they had been crying during the sermon, or throwing stones, or asking too many questions.  At any rate, the apostles thought them a disturbance, not fit company for Jesus.  And they tried to shoo them away.  But Jesus became indignant and ordered the children brought to him. (Mk. 10:13)  As they were.  With angel wings, and devil’s tail!  Like we all are.

            Just look at the behavior of God’s children portrayed by the apostle James.  They were no angels, that bunch.  James almost seems like a referee breaking up a schoolyard fight: Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from,? he asks (II).  God’s kids in that church didn’t seem fit for the kingdom of heaven.  Yet despite James’ scolding and chiding he never once disowns them.  Oh yes, they were an embarrassment to their elders, what with their jealousy and selfish ambition, their disroder and foul practice (Cf. II), but they were still part of the family.  Yes, with a lot of growing up to do, but still called “brothers and sisters” in Christ, truly God’s children.

            For God’s kids are God’s kids.  Just like your children are yours, no matter what, so are we God’s.  Oh sure, we should heed and obey the wisdom from above (II), that God gives us for our own good, like the guidance parents give their children.  And yes, we should get along with our brothers and sisters in the household of faith, sowing the fruit of righteous­ness in peace (Cf. II). Trouble is, our favorite words are often “No” and “I don’t want to.”

            ‘Cause we behave like children.  Sometimes adorable, and sometimes not.  But this doesn’t keep us from coming to Jesus.  He still says to you and me, Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mk. 10:14).

            Come then to the family table, as you are, take your seat, and be fed by the One whom God sends as the servant of all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.



Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli)

Let us pray to God our helper, the Lord, the upholder of our life.

That all members of the church may imitate the example of Jesus, not seeking to be first but becoming servants of all.

That governments who counter opposition with insult and torture may not triumph over the righteous or prevail against the just.

That nations may renounce conflicts and disputes, and realize that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

That those caught up in the quest for power and prestige may discover that true greatness lies in the humble service of others.

That victims of envy and selfish ambition may not lose faith but bear witness to the greater power of gentleness and peace.

That all who are persecuted for words or witness may show by their forbearance the righteousness of their cause.

That those who serve children in Christ’s name may teach all of us how to welcome Christ in simplicity of heart.

That Christian communities may be freed from every trace of partiality and hypocrisy and live by the wisdom from above, full of mercy and good fruits.

That schooled by the Teacher who became last of all and servant of all we may go forth from this assembly to serve in gentleness and peace.

That this community may seek in prayer not its own pleasure but the grace to be of service to others.

That the dead who were God’s children by baptism may rise again with Jesus to the joy of eternal life.

O God, protector of the poor and defender of the just, in your kingdom the last become first, the gentle are strong, and the lowly exalted. Give us wisdom from above, that we may find in your servant Jesus the pattern of true discipleship and the grace to persevere in following him, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever (ICEL; 1998).



Whence comes jealousy? ambition?

With them live disorder’s ways.

Unlike them is purest wisdom—

Full of mercy, all its days;

Peaceful, gentle, and compliant,

Bearing righteousness and praise.

But the wicked, in their doing

Find “obnoxious” heaven’s plan

And, conspiring for its failure,

Seek to kill the Son of Man;

With revilement and with torture

Scare him from his chosen stand.

If we seek to be the foremost,

We must seek to be the last;

Serving God by serving neighbor,

Ev’ry sin away to cast,

Curbing passions with His mercy,

Till Christ’s Kingdom come to pass.

Lord’s Prayer

As children of God we pray to Abba as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus, we come before you in simplicity and peace of heart, asking you to welcome us as once you welcomed a child in your midst.  Though we are unable today to taste the sweetness of your Eucharist, we trust nevertheless that you dwell within us by the gift of the Spirit.  Fill us with the pure wisdom from above that we might bear the fruit of righteousness. In your mercy restore us soon to the Table of your memorial and to the company of our sisters and brothers.



Closing Hymn

Children of the Heavenly Father
Safely in his bosom gather
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given

God his own doth tend and nourish
In his holy courts they flourish
From all evil things he spares them
In his mighty arms he bears them

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord his children sever
Unto them his grace he showeth
And their sorrows all he knoweth

Though he giveth or he taketh
God his children ne’er forsaketh
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy