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A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Laurie Brink, O.P. | September 22, 2018

A Scripture Reflection for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 23, 2018



First Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-30

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

Second Reading: James 3:16 - 4:3

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37



Until the mid-term elections are over, I think I have to fast from watching TV. I can't view one more candidate claim to be more righteous than the other candidate, as if saying it often enough makes it so. And the thing is, these aren't bad folks. They just have a different view of how the system/government/business should work. And they think they are more correct than the other candidate. I think about these opposing sides as I read this Sunday's readings. Whether the "wicked" in Wisdom or the passions in James or the misguided disciples in Mark-the all or nothing attitude serves no one well.


The reading from Wisdom reads like a Suffering Servant Song from Isaiah, but from the perspective of the wicked. Whereas the Suffering Servant speaks of his trials at the hands of the ungodly, here the wicked reveal their motivation for attacking the righteous: "he sets himself against our doings...., reproaches us..., and charges us" (Wis 2:12). Sounds like the author of Wisdom has seen the same political ads that I've been watching. After the speech of the wicked, the subject turns to the hidden counsels of God. The author of Wisdom upbraids the wicked who failed to consider the recompense for holiness or the reward for innocent souls (Wis 2:22). Would that we all follow the author's example and seek wisdom, for "whatever is hidden or plain I learned, for Wisdom, the artisan of all, taught me" (Wis 7:21-22).


The reading from the Letter of James also focuses on the wicked, but not as outside opponents. Here the vices of jealousy, selfish ambition, conflicts, envy, killing, and war emerge from one's passions (Jas 4:1). The Greek is actually better translated as "pleasures." But pleasure per se isn't the problem, according to James. Rather, it is how one goes about achieving that pleasure. "You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly" (Jas 4:3). The Christian is to be a lover of God and not a lover of the world (Jas 4:4).


Our gospel reading doesn't directly pit the wicked against the wise, but it does show how our expectations and aspirations can been wrongly focused.


Jesus predicts his passion and resurrection three times in the Gospel of Mark (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; and paralleled in Matthew and Luke). In response to each announcement, the disciples misunderstand (8:32-33; 9:32, 33-34; 10:35-41) necessitating a teaching on discipleship by Jesus (8:34-9:1; 9:35-37; 10:42-45). In today's Gospel, Jesus again speaks of his coming passion, but the disciples not only don't understand, they don't even ask for clarification. Rather, they begin to argue among themselves about who is the greatest. Perhaps the disciples are wondering who among them would take the lead after Jesus' death. It's like they're planning their campaign strategy.


In response, Jesus upsets their expectations. The leader is one who serves. To punctuate his teaching, Jesus takes a child (one without legal standing or status in the both the Jewish and Greco-Roman society) and charges the disciples, "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" (Mark 9:37).


Perhaps our candidates for public office would do well to heed Jesus' example. Imagine the good that could be done for the little ones in our midst if all those campaign dollars were reappropriated for the betterment of our society and not the promotion of one's agenda. At the least, I could go back to watching TV.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Laurie Brink, O.P.

Associate Professor of New Testament Studies

M.A., Maryknoll School of Theology; Ph.D., University of Chicago

Laurie Brink, O.P., is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa. She received a B.S. from the University of Tennessee, M.A. from the Maryknoll School of Theology, and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Laurie Brink investigates the ancient social, religious, and cultural world out of which early Christianity emerged. Her current work engages audience-oriented analysis to evaluate the characterization and function of the soldiers and centurions in Luke-Acts. Recently she directed an interdisciplinary project in which scholars of Roman history, archaeology, Early Christianity, and Jewish Studies investigated ancient burial practices and the emergence of identifiable Christian practices. She and Deborah Green edited the monograph, Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context (DeGruyter, 2008), which resulted from the two-year study.

Having worked as a senior staff member for the Combined Caesarea Expeditions, Brink attempts to integrate archaeological research and biblical exegesis. Along with former Israel Study Program Director, Marianne Race, C.S.J., Brink co-authored In This Place: Reflections on the Land of the Gospels for the Liturgical Cycles (reprint Wipf & Stock, 2008). “A General’s Exhortation to His Troops: Paul’s Military Rhetoric in 2 Cor 10:1-11,” appeared in Biblische Zeitschrift in 2005 and 2006. Her other articles include “A Marginal Life: Pursing Holiness in the 21st Century,” Horizon 33 (2008), “Pursuing a dream, finding a vocation,” Vision (2007), and “Can we allow a new generation to shape religious life?” Horizons 32 (2007). Brink is a member of American Schools of Oriental Research, Catholic Biblical Association, Chicago Society of Biblical Research, and Society of Biblical Literature.

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