25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9/19/21
In today’s gospel, from Mark Chapter 9, Jesus speaks about his own rejection, torture, and shameful death. True discipleship, he says, is concerned not with status but with service to the poor and with justice and peace. Our fiscal year started on July 1 and during this twelve months, as a parish we are going to increase our efforts to serve the poor in Fort Pierce. In the past we have done a lot through donations to St. Vincent de Paul, Sarah’s Kitchen, the Pregnancy Care Center, and our Thrift Shop, but I think we should do more through increasing our hours of volunteer services to the poor. A couple weeks ago, I spoke about St. Vincent de Paul needing volunteers and we actually had a couple people call them and volunteer.
This week, I want to mention our desperate need to get volunteers for the Thrift Shop. It is located at 517 Georgia Avenue in the Dollar Tree Plaza, just off US1 and if you look on the back of the bulletin there is an ad with their phone number and hours. Recently we have had times when we had to close the store because of a lack of volunteers. Terri Snow and the other volunteers that we have, have done a great job to keep the store open, but they need help. I ask that you please consider volunteering to help in the store. Doing so would do what Jesus is asking us to do, to serve the poor in that area. If you cannot volunteer, then consider shopping there or donating used items to support the poor. Thank you for considering supporting this ministry.
Speaking of the bulletin, there is another idea for serving the poor on page 1 inside. That is to donate bicycles that are new or used to St. Vincent DePaul for use by the poor and the homeless. If you have one that is in working order and just sitting around, please call them to arrange for donation. Bicycles are the only mode of transportation for many of our poor neighbors, and they need them.
Also, for those of you who have businesses, you can support St Mark by placing an ad on the back of the bulletin. These ads help us to provide the bulletin at no cost to the church. Thank you to those parishioners who advertise currently.
Now, back to the Gospel. What do we make of Jesus’ telling the apostles that they need to look at their lives in terms of a child? The contrast has an exact point: it isn’t that children are totally innocent and always wonderful. Rather, children experience life with an openness that adults should mirror in their lives. Children experience life without calculation.
Ever since Jesus began to announce his destiny, that he would be rejected, tortured, and executed in Jerusalem, his disciples have been doing their calculations. They still do not have the basic point, that the essence of Jesus’ life is selfless service, his willingness to give himself for the sake of others. Rather, immediately after reiterating his destiny, we find the disciples arguing about who among them would be the greatest.
They don’t have in their heads the picture Jesus has. For them, following Jesus has been a way to get ahead, possibly even to have political power in a kingdom. Jesus knows that it is exactly the political powers that be who will be the instruments of his death, the leaders in Jerusalem and the occupation leaders of that time, the Romans. They are making their own calculations.
Jesus wants us like children because children accept life as it comes, often with joy and laughter. The second reading echoes this when it talks about the good gifts that are showered upon us by a loving God. They come from a heaven of goodness, and they can be received only in an attitude of grace, an attitude, that is, of receiving gifts as surprises, as unexpected favors, which come to us from God’s generosity. These are the gifts we share when we volunteer to serve our poor neighbors. Volunteering is in itself a type of charity. If you are on a fixed income and cannot afford to give to charity, then a great alternative gift is that of your time. Many of you here today do both and we are thankful for that.
This is the fundamental Christian attitude, often summed up by the word “stewardship,” a profound awareness of the grace-filled gifts we receive, a profound gratitude, and a subsequent living of our lives in a generous freedom with our God Given Gifts.
A child’s face before a birthday cake, kids at an amusement park, children playing in the water for the first time. This is the freedom and openness that we are called to have.
What limits our lives are not the possessions and power that we feel we don’t have; what truly limits us is the loss of freedom and spontaneity, that automatic joy that should be part of every life. COVID 19 has tried to steal our joy, but don’t let that happen.
The test of Jesus’ vision will come soon enough, whether he can accept even death and apparent defeat, with the openness and trust he is trying to teach his apostles, and us. Jesus knows well the calculations of the wicked; our first reading shows exactly the logic of trying to dominate life by power and trying to maintain power by destroying others, especially the weak and innocent.
When Jesus’ accepts his destiny, he teaches us one of the greatest lessons: in the end, it’s not the calculating and power-hungry who win.
Rather, only those whose hearts are open and trusting, like the hearts of children, really know the meaning of life and the joy that such a life brings.