25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ws 2:12, 17-20; Jam 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37) “The Folly of Ambition & Envy” PDF Version
Homily for 25thSunday of OT, Year B (2018): Ws 2:12,17-20; Jam 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
If someone told you that they were to suffer, die and rise again from the dead, it would be reasonable to assume you might ask the person to explain just how all of this was to unfold! St Mark tells us that the Apostles responded to this devastating news about the coming Passion and Resurrection of Jesus by both failing to understand our Lord’s words and being too scared to ask for further explanation! Did they simple believe Him and remained silent, obediently trusting that all would unfold according to His plan?
Or did they remember that occasion that Jesus had given them this unsettling news before and when St Peter objected to it taking place, they were shocked to hear our Lord call him Satan for thinking as men do and obstructing the ways of God!
Or could there be another reason behind their inability to properly process our Lord’s words and adequately prepare themselves for the events that were soon to unfold, ones that would change the very course of history and usher in a new era of grace and salvation.
In contrast, the chief priests of Jerusalem knew quite clearly how they wanted to bring the career of this upstart rabbi and miracle worker from Nazareth to a crashing conclusion. They looked for countless occasions to put Him to death, only to be either thwarted by Our Lord’s divinity as He would pass through their midst and avoid arrest when it was easy to apprehend Him or when the People prevented them from laying hands on the One they believed to be their long awaited Saviour.
Yet we read today from the Book of Wisdom that the chief priests’ plots of kill Jesus and end any speculation that He was the Messiah was more than just their own desire to maintain their control over the people. They were also the ones who would fulfill a prophecy made a number of years before about their plot to kill the Son of Man.
Some Biblical scholars argue that the Book of Wisdom was written as little as 100 to 50 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, making it one of the final books of the Old Testament and one that was certain known by the priests and scribes of the Jewish People.
Thus, in the not so decent past, the Holy Spirit had inspired the author of the Book of Wisdom to write that the chief priests, ironically called the Godless, despite claiming to be priests of the Most High God, would seek to kill the Righteous One for revealing them to be hypocrites and violators of God’s Law. They hated this Righteous One for His Words, words that brought such hope to the oppressed and they mocked Him for claiming to be the Son of God, a supposedly blasphemous claim that merited a shameful death preceded by torture, insult and worst of all, putting God to the test in demanding the Lord of Heaven and Earth to reveal if this Righteous One was truly His Son by saving Him from His passion.
The Chief priests, filled with ambition, pride, love of power, scorn for the poor and hypocrisy in justifying living sinful lives while expecting their people to follow God’s Law, had no hesitations to put Jesus to Death.
As the High priest Caiaphas revealed in St John’s Gospel, better for one man to die than the entire nation be destroyed. Such is a cruel logic of corrupt and hypocritical clerics, to allow evil to take place if it assures they remain in power and are thought favourably in the eyes of men. They knew why they wanted to kill Jesus, they devised a way to do so, and when their moment came, they did not hesitate to fulfill a prophecy that was unknowingly made about them…
But such was not the hearts of the Apostles. They most certainly did not want to see their Master killed and when Our Lord told them it was going to take place, they seem to give no answer other than misunderstand and fear. How did they fail to understand His words when we can so clearly comprehend what Jesus was saying to them!? Do you not want to cry out to the Apostles and say, listen to what He is saying! Ask Him to explain what is to happen! Ask Him to help you steel your hearts to endure what is to come! Yet we read they respond by beginning to argue among themselves who will be the greatest among them!
Ambition and Envy, it seems, was also in their hearts, just as they were in the hearts of the chief priests in Jerusalem. Perhaps it was this very event, of the Apostles fighting over who would be the greatest among them, that St James had in mind when he would write that “where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.”
Surely this was the case of those who brought Jesus to death, both the chief priests and the powers of Rome, but in a way was this envy and selfish ambition not also in the hearts of the Apostles, thus blinding them to adequately prepare themselves for our Lord’s passion and having an all too worldly expectation of who Jesus was and what He could provide for them, namely, positions of power that would cause these 12 men who were supposed to be brothers in faith to descend into petty competition and envy of each other?
When ambition obscures the plans of God and envy prevents us from embracing a life of service and childlike trust in Our Heavenly Father, we are quickly blinded from seeing the ways God wishes to act in our lives, in ways both explicit and subtle.
The Apostles failed on this occasion to resist the alluring temptation to selfish ambition and envy for power that would ultimately lead them to fail in defending and supporting Jesus in His Passion. So too must we be on guard against selfish ambition and envy creeping into our lives, causing us to omit opportunities to serve one another and preventing us from allowing God in to guide us along the right path.
Our Lord forgave the Apostles for abandoning Him when He needed them most and for the manifold ways they allowed worldly ambitions obscure their ability to become instruments of the Holy Spirits. So too He will forgives us, but only if we seek out that forgiveness when we close our ears to hear His Word, be they pleasant or difficult words to hear.