Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 19, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.E.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine
 Washington, D.C.

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Sunday Reading Meditations

In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges us to be ambitious, to be ambitious of true greatness: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35).

Jesus is telling the apostles about his sorrowful and glorious destiny as they walk toward Jerusalem. He warns them that he is going to be rejected and killed by the wicked. The threats of the wicked in today’s first reading were about to come to pass: “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” (Wis 2:19–20).

 Jesus’ forewarnings of the passion are not understood by his disciples: “But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him” (Mk 9:32).

When Jesus asks the Apostles what they had been discussing on the way, they remain silent. They were ashamed because, as the Scripture tells us, “(t)hey had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest” (Mk 9:34). In today’s second reading, Saint James says: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (Jas 3:16).

The craving for power is one of the passions mentioned by Saint James: “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?” (Jas 4:1).

To renounce selfish ambitions is the way to the possession of true glory. As today’s alleluia refrain says, “God has called us through the Gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus does not deny the human desire for grandeur but he is the only one who can fulfill it. We find the true greatness of life when we reject pride and embrace humility. Humble service is a path of glorification.

We can possess the glory of Christ through prayer. As Saint James says, “(y)ou do not possess because you do not ask” (Jas 4:2). Jesus says: “Ask and it will be given to you; […] For everyone who asks, receives” (Mt 7:7–8). God has so much to give us but we ask for so little! When we receive God’s grace, we conquer our passions. As the second reading says, “…the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” (Jas 3:17).

In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to be the servants of all and to be childlike. This becomes possible when we discover that the Lord sustains our lives and that he is truly good! As today’s responsorial psalm says, “(b)ehold, 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” (Ps 54:8).

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mk 9:35).

Jesus wants us to be ambitious! He wants us to be truly ambitious! Let us be ambitious of true greatness!  Amen.