25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

Ambition

The gospel begins today with Jesus telling the disciples that he will be handed over to men and that he will die and rise on the third day. Even while he is sharing this most serious message, the disciples are not paying much attention because they are arguing who among them is the greatest. Imagine how Jesus must have felt when he asked what they were arguing about.

After they arrived at their destination, Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Obviously, Jesus was correcting their ambition. Throughout all the the gospels, Jesus is the servant caring for the needs of others through his teaching, preaching and healing. This message of service is meant for all of us.

In our society today reaching the top, achieving fame and fortune, being the most important person is the goal of many. This may not be our goal but do we try to have the latest designer clothing, have a bigger and more expensive car than we need, live in a five-bedroom house when there are two of us? These are not wrong in of themselves but the motivation behind them is what needs to be owned.

Ambition may take a variety of forms such as when we treat others as if they are not important, when we think our race or nationality is superior to “those foreigners.” Even religion can be a form of ambition when one has a “holier than thou” attitude. It happens when your position on church issues is different than others and you always believe you are right or when you criticize others’ irregular church attendance. The list of ambitious thoughts and actions is endless. Only you know what motivates you.

In the second reading from James we are told, “Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” This is the opposite of what Jesus says at the end of the gospel. He places a child in the midst of the disciples and tells them they must be simple and childlike because, “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.”

The choice is ours. Do we want disorder and foul practices in our lives or do we want simplicity and childlikeness so that we will be received by Jesus in the end?

When is the last time you looked at all your possessions and eliminated what was no longer being used?

What motivates your thoughts, words and actions in regards to material things and people?

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