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9/23: Two Ways

18 Pentecost, Sept. 23

Prov. 31:10-31 or Jer. 11:18-20
Ps. 1 or Wis. 1:16-2:1, 12-22 or Ps. 54
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8aMark 9:30-37

“Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest” (Mark 9:33-34). Their silence speaks loudly of how posturing and maneuvering for position and leadership is often soaked in pernicious sin. “Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.” Even when asking, “you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). Again and again we pray that we may live no longer for ourselves alone, because living for oneself and only for oneself is the misery of a long hell.

The wages of sin is death, and yet, without counting the cost, and with monumental self-deceit, humans are prodigious in claiming that desires and actions that lead to death are friendly and harmless. “The ungodly by their words and deeds summoned death; considering him a friend, they pined away and made a covenant with him” (Wis. 1:16). “How good and pleasant it is,” death says, “when brothers and sisters live together with bitter envy and selfish ambition.” There are winners and losers. If you want it, take it. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” says the devil. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in with food to delight the eyes, I will satisfy every desire and give a world of wisdom.” The devil has written a dissertation of “good reason” to fall into disorder and wickedness of every kind (James 3:16).

If a righteous person speaks out, evil responds. If the Son of Righteousness speaks, evil launches an all-out attack. “Let us wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. … He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange” (Wis. 2:12-15). The devil, when opposed, tests, ridicules, tortures, and puts to a shameful death (Wis. 2:19-20).

Jesus demonstrates another way. “He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a child and put it in among them, and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me’” (Mark 9:35-37).

It was a small child, but it might also have been any small thing. Dame Julian’s vision: “He showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand. … I looked at it with the eyes of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding, It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God” (Showings, Longer Text, cap. v.). Nothing is smaller than the Incarnation in which all things are drawn up.

Look It Up
Read Wisdom 2:22.

Think About It
God pays the wages of holiness.


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