XXV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
wisdom 2:12, 17-20; james 3:16—4:3; mark 9:30-37
a fisherman was carrying his catch of crabs back home in an open basket. a passer-by remarked: «aren’t you afraid the crabs will crawl out?» the fisherman replied: «no! do you know anything about the behaviour of crabs? watch!»
as a crab crawled towards the top of the basket, the others pulled the climber down. this kept happening! the crabs would not allow the others to climb towards the top.
it’s not just crabs that pull one another down. we do the same because of jealousy and selfish ambition.
today’s readings address these two human foibles that destroy people.
in the second reading, st james writes: «where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice,» and lists the reason for war and conflict: unsatisfied craving.
the first reading from the book of wisdom is a rare, inside-view of how selfish minds work, and illustrates the extremes to which jealousy and selfish ambition can lead a person when confronted by a «righteous man».
it’s the same in the gospel. the religious leaders are jealous of the righteous man called JESUS; his virtue is an examination of conscience for them! he predicts that they will hand him over to torturers.
jealousy and selfish ambition destroy people and community.
JESUS smells these foibles enter his fledgling church! he has just instructed his disciples on his coming passion. but suffering does not fit into their perspective of the kingdom; they cannot comprehend the powerlessness that JESUS maps out for himself. they are busy discussing their great positions in the kingdom.
JESUS nips this one in the bud. he puts a child in their midst and challenges the twelve to welcome that little child. when they can welcome «littleness,» they welcome him.
in effect, JESUS compares himself to the little child who cannot resort to power tactics when threatened. on the road to jerusalem, in the face of suffering and death, he can only turn to his father in trust. this makes him vulnerable; unless the disciples can accept vulnerability they will never understand his way.
when we are righteous and live upright lives, we can be sure that people will pull us down. the challenge before us:
will i give in to jealousy and selfish ambition? will i resort to power tactics or will i welcome the vulnerability of a little child?
how will i welcome and accept the child part of my personality, and become less power conscious and success oriented?