Sunday Scriptures — OT B 25, Sept. 20, 2015

Sorry I got distracted last Sunday. I had something prepared but never got around to posting it. For what it’s worth, if anything, here it is now.

Jesus gives his second prediction of his passion. All good people can expect opposition, but we must remain good-hearted.
Last Sunday’s gospel passage included a profession of faith, a prediction of Jesus’ Passion, and a teaching that all Christians must bear their cross. The lectionary passes over the accounts of the Transfiguration and the exorcism of a boy with a demon to get to today’s pericope: Mark 9:30-37. There are two parts to this passage. First, Jesus once more predicts his suffering, death, and resurrection. Once more, the disciples are puzzled, but they don’t dare ask questions. Next, the disciples discuss who is the greatest. Jesus says greatness lies in service to all, even to people of no status such as children.
The passion of Jesus, which he predicts, fulfills the words of the first reading — Wisdom 2:12, 17-20. But Jesus isn’t the only just one persecuted by the wicked. Good behavior is always a silent rebuke to those who are behaving badly. They resort to mockery, pressure to conform, and bullying. In Western nations, the pressure to conform usually does not go beyond that, but it takes courage to stand up to what may be popular but wrong. Note that the just one is characterized by gentleness and patience. Note also that the words of the wicked in verse 18 echo Psalm 22:9, which Jesus prayed on the cross, and both find their echo in the mockery of Jesus by the chief priests, scribes, and elders at Matthew 27:43.
Psalm 53:3-6, 8 has the congregation pray as those persecuted by the wicked do, with confidence in God.
The second reading — James 3:16-4:23 — warns us to avoid against jealousy, ambition, and covetousness. They are bad in themselves, but they lead to further evils: disorder and all sorts of “foul practice,” as well as conflicts both within oneself and with others. The mention of wars and killings don’t imply that the hearers are literally engaged in those thing. Commentators point that those were standard themes in contemporary writings against jealousy and self-seeking. At any rate, the Holy Spirit, wisdom from above, brings purity, peace, gentleness, compliance, mercy, and good deeds. Jesus exhibited those while remaining forthright in his teaching and courageous in the face of opposition. We should have the same childlike qualities, not letting ourselves be provoked to evil.

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