This week, we will break from tradition, and not read the Gospel lesson last. This week, we will look at the readings chronologically. After all, since James’ writings were based upon Jesus’ teachings, it makes sense to lay down the foundation before studying the application.
Jeremiah lived during the time of exile. Being God’s spokesman to His people, Jeremiah had a tough job. Chapter 11 is a dialogue between God and Jeremiah. Today’s selection is only a part of this dialogue. In the verses shown in paragraph form, God is speaking to Jeremiah. The verses that are indented like a poem (today’s reading) are from Jeremiah. This is Jeremiah’s lament, or complaint to God. 12:1-4 is more of Jeremiah’s lament. He was clearly in misery over the task before him.
- Jeremiah tells God that it was He who pointed out the evil ways of the people, and Jeremiah saw it right away. (v. 18)
- Jeremiah was not aware of what he was in for. He did not realize that doing God’s work would provoke the people to murderous thoughts. (v. 19)
- In spite of these threats, Jeremiah remains steadfast; He will continue to speak for God. He calls upon God to fight for him against his adversaries. (v. 20)
In many ways, this lament sounds like it could be applied to Jesus’ life. Many early Christians did just that. But these words can also be applied to anyone who is faithful to God in the face of their adversaries. These words can be applied to you and me. Be like Jeremiah in verse 20. Remain committed to the Lord in the face of opposition.
In the book of Mark, Jesus predicts his suffering and death three times. (8:31, today’s reading, and 10:33-34) Each time, the apostles do not get it. We studied the first time last week. When Jesus did this, Peter rebuked Jesus. Jesus says those famous words “Get behind me, Satan!” Let’s see what happens this time.
- Jesus and his apostles are traveling south from Caesarea Philippi, on their way to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. He is trying to avoid the crowds, because he wants to teach the apostles something very important. Dealing with large crowds would prevent him from teaching his close group. (v. 30)
- What he is teaching them is God the Father’s plan—that Jesus would suffer, die, and rise from the dead. (v. 31)
- Here’s something amazing. The apostles did not understand Jesus. This is the second time he has told them this, but they still don’t get it. Not only that, they were afraid to quiz him on this teaching, so they said nothing! (v. 32)
- Along the way, there must have been quite a commotion amongst the disciples, because Jesus asked them about it when they arrived in Capernaum. (v. 33)
- Nobody spoke up. Apparently, they were too embarrassed to tell him that they were bragging about who was better than whom. (v. 34)
- Jesus sits them down, and explains that their thinking is backward for apostles. They should be arguing over who is the lowest, not the highest. (v. 35)
- Here comes the part that is easy to misunderstand. He tells them that they should welcome little children. That welcoming these children is the same as welcoming Jesus. In our modern society, children are held high. They are gifts from God. But in Jesus’ time, children were merely tolerated Children had the same social stature as women, beggars, lepers, slaves and tax collectors. Jesus is telling his disciples to be worthless slaves, if they wish to be “first” in God’s pecking order. They should be bragging about who is the lowest, not the greatest. He flips their value system upside down. (v. 36)
To truly be God’s children, we should adopt God’s value system. This is not going to be easy! Let’s see what James says on the subject.
JAMES 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
As I’ve said in the past, the book of James is a book of Christian wisdom. It gives us sound direction on how to live up to being children of God; how to live our lives as Christians.
- The reading begins with a call to wisdom. Not the kind that is static, but that is active. Wisdom should show forth in our actions. (v. 13)
- Four faults are then singled out—bitter envy, selfish ambition, being boastful, and finally being dishonest. All of these, James tells us, are evil, and are not attributes of the wise Christian. (vv. 14-16)
- Instead, we should try to be peaceable, gentle, willing to yield (there’s a toughie!), full of mercy, without partiality (does he mean no racial prejudice, too?), hypocrisy, and full of good “fruits”. (vv. 17-18)
- The next paragraph deals with our arguing amongst ourselves. Doesn’t this sound like today’s Gospel? These are covetous urgings. In a way, they can also be murderous; for sure, they can kill the love we should have for each other. (vv. 4:1-3)
- Finally, we need to give in, and give it to God. We must work hard to resist the temptation to do these things. Instead, we should strive to draw near to God, and adopt his priorities, putting ours aside. (v. 7)
Remember Philippians 2:5, 7-8:
“Let the same minds be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of god, did not regard equality with god as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
In today’s readings, we see the difference between God’s way and our way. Through our baptism, we have become children of God. Maybe, just maybe, we need realign our thinking to our Father’s way.