25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
16th Sunday After Pentecost
September 24, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-6, 8
James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37
Theme: The War Within
We must not allow our passions to win the battle for our heart.
Jesus explains his destiny to his disciples: “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. It is an important teaching moment for those closest to Jesus. But rather seeking clarification the disciples embark on a discussion of who is greatest among them. To observe these nearest to Jesus to be so far from the heart of Jesus gives us pause.
As is so often the case, it takes a child to bring us back to reality. In fact, Jesus takes a child and places him in their midst to remind us of life not yet ruled by the passions. The war within us is a fight worth winning. Lest we continue to allow jealousy and selfish ambition to rule us Jesus says, “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.” We can make receiving Jesus complicated. Indeed, the way of Jesus and the way to Jesus is only complicated to the degree we insist self-preservation. And that war is waged deep in our heart.
If this conflict is permitted to continue unabated, the results are catastrophic. Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members? To be triumphant in life we must be more than conquerors over the self-deception that demands control over us. If there’s to be peace among us there must be first that peace that passes all understanding within us. The empty achievements of self-promotion are apparent. Coveting leads to motivations that ruin relationships, despises authority, and leaves us as empty and unsatisfied as we were.
So what should be the testimony of our heart? Let our confession be, “God will take care of me.” And, “God is my helper, the Lord sustains my life.” The wicked, dominated by their passions will test those words. Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one's life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God. For the time that has passed is sufficient for doing what the Gentiles like to do: living in debauchery, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and wanton idolatry. They are surprised that you do not plunge into the same swamp of profligacy, and they vilify you; but they will give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. (I Peter 4:1-4)
Will I be willing to be misunderstood and maligned? Surely the contented heart desires the will of the Lord. Because godliness with contentment is great gain, he who has been faithful in the day of the battle within will be granted an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
The prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus is to know the wisdom that is from above. The way of the world is dismal and is a manifestation of the hearts of its subjects. Be we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. To change the wasteland within to be a garden of God is to encounter the wisdom from above which is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.
There are three things to do to be successful in our war within.
1. Give no place to the devil. Avoid the very appearance of sin. Be ruthless in refusing to let Satan have a foothold.
2. Avail yourself of the rite of reconciliation. You cannot confess anything that will
alarm the priest. Where 2 or 3 are gathered together in Christ’s name, Jesus is present. Be reconciled to God.
3. Don’t neglect to meet together…but encourage one another. (Hebrews 10:25)
Holy Eucharist is indispensable to being victorious over illicit passions. Taste and see that the Lord is good and good
Let us pray: Dear Jesus be strong in us. Be mighty in us to defeat the enemies within; the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Allow us not to be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. Then will our hearts be the Garden of God. Amen.