Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Wisdom 2:12-17-20
James 3:16-4:3
Mark 9:30-37


September 22-23, 2018, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Is there anyone here who has been chosen to be a king? Of course, all of us who have been baptized in the Catholic Church have been anointed king. The very same prayer that you hear said when we baptize someone in the midst of this assembly was said when you were baptized After we immerse the child in the font, we anoint their head with sacred chrism, praying, "As Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. "

We have to listen to Jesus in today's Gospel reading to understand what kind of a king we have been anointed to be. As it has been throughout human history, there is often a huge gap between the principle of something, and its implementation. In Jesus' day and culture, the principle of being a king was that the king served to protect those who had no protection under the law: biblically speaking the widow, the orphan, and the alien. Everyone else had protection from the law or from family but those little ones needed someone to look after their interests. That was the job of the king. Of course, most kings spent most of their time using their power for their own interests rather than looking after the widows, the orphans, or the aliens.

As a result most of us think that being king means being able to do what we want, and to get rid of anyone who stands in our way, as the first reading describes. Certainly we see the effects of being this kind of king in the behavior that James calls out in his letter, and in the bickering of the disciples arguing about who is the top dog in the Gospel

Not much has changed in our day. We will soon go to the polls to elect all sorts of public officials. We call them public servants because they are elected to serve the public, and in much the same spirit as the culture of Jesus' time, to serve the poor and marginalized of our public in a special way. Sadly, many of our public servants use their power to further their own interests rather than serving the public's.

So Jesus came to remind us what it means to be king, as he is king. This is the point of what scripture scholars call the Marcan secret. The author of Mark's Gospel has Jesus repeatedly telling the disciples or someone he has cured to keep quiet about what has happened or who he is. The reason for this is that they will not understand, or more precisely, cannot understand who he is as Messiah until they witness the suffering and death on the cross. Focusing only on the miracles and powerful teaching and personal charisma of Jesus leads them to the wrong conclusion that the Messiah will use power and might to force change. The truth is that Jesus became human in order to show that salvation comes from God becoming little. At the end of the Gospel passage we heard today, Jesus uses a child to remind his disciples that they must accept the littleness, the vulnerability, the powerlessness in their Messiah if they are ever to understand who he is.

My son Matthew who lives out in San Diego has 3 children. And pretty much from the birth of his second, he has made it clear to the two older children that in any dispute with a younger sibling, the younger always wins. It doesn't matter what the dispute is about or that the older child is bigger, stronger, smarter, or even more right. Because the older child is bigger, or older, or smarter or whatever not for their own benefit but for those siblings who are younger, and weaker and not as smart yet. The same is true for Christians, really for all humans. Everything we have has been given to us by God for the benefit of those around us. All to often in the history of the Church Catholics have acted as if the gifts of the sacraments and our participation in the body of Christ is for our benefit; sometimes expressed erroneously as so that we are saved and others are not. Today's Gospel reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. Even our faith is given to us for the benefit of those around us, most especially the weak and the marginalized. We are fed the body and blood of Christ so that we become what we eat and bring the real presence of Christ to those we meet duing the week. We are given forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we might bring to those we meet forgiveness. And we are built up by the love of this community gathered by Christ so that we might go forth and bring that love to those who need it.

I would suggest that this is the message of today's readings for us. Yes it is true that each one of us has been anointed king. But for most of us, we are to exercise that kingship by serving one another in the little, seemingly mundane tasks in the life we find ourselves, right here and right now. How do we as husbands or wives serve our spouse, making them first and ourselves last? How do we as parents serve our children? How do we as children serve our parents? How do we as parish staff serve parishioners? How do we as parishioners serve our parish staff?

Does following Jesus in this command to make others first and ourselves last as we serve them make us unimportant, insignificant? Certainly not. Jesus spent his whole life living this c0mmand and I don't think anyone would call him unimportant. Just as the Father raised Jesus on high, giving him the name above all other names because Jesus lived this way, so too will God raise us up for living this way.

As Christ was anointed King, so may we live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.

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