A reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapter 2:12, 17-20)
This book was written less than a century before the birth of Jesus. Once again, the people of Israel were oppressed, this time by the Greeks who forced many Jews to choose between giving up their faith and death. In this text, the faithful person is characterized by his enemies as “the just one.” Such a person will be tortured and condemned “to a shameful death.” The disciples of Jesus later referred to Jesus as the “just one” because of the way he was abused and murdered.
In our own time, we have seen “just ones” persecuted and killed for standing up for justice and human rights. They are the prophets and martyrs among us whose cause is just and whose message must be heard and followed. Archbishop Romero and the three religious women who were killed in El Salvador come to mind, but there are hundreds and thousands more who are nameless to us but whose sacrifice is in the tradition of Jesus, the “just one.”
“The Lord upholds my life.” The psalmist complains that “the haughty have risen up against me, the ruthless seek my life.” This is in keeping with the theme of the “just one” being attacked. Has that happened to you, that you were accused of something unjustly? It happens to most of us at some time in our lives. The key to making it through is knowing that “The Lord upholds my life.”
A reading from the Letter of James
We live in a very competitive society in which people are judged to be winners and losers. The winners are seen to be the famous, the beautiful people, the super-rich, and the powerful. So, where does that leave the rest of us? Are we all losers unless we break into the circle of the elite few?
James has a different set of standards. He says that wars and conflicts come because “you covet but do not possess.” He tells us that “wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits.” This is a far cry from what our media portray and many of the “winners” live out. We have a choice—whether we want to be seduced into being superficial winners or to live our lives in love, and true faithfulness to God and one another.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Jesus came to serve, not to dominate as many false leaders have done and continue to do. When he hears that the disciples were arguing about who among them would be the greatest, he calls the twelve aside and says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Pope Francis is not simply trying to update the Church and change a few regulations. He is modeling the kind of leadership that Jesus lived: service, not domination. He speaks out strongly against the domination of women by men, including in the Church, domination of those who live in poverty by the super-rich and powerful, the misuse of the goods of the earth for the wealth of the few, and the domination of one race or religion over another. That was not the way of Jesus and Pope Francis calls leaders all over the world to practice a leadership that respects the rights of the millions who are poor, hungry, landless, refugees, prisoners unjustly condemned, children and the unborn, the sick and the elderly. He also calls on all of us to enjoy and take care of the beauties of our wonderful earth. Francis has changed the way people look at our Church, feeling a warmth and welcoming presence from a man who follows our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, the “just one.”
Photo by Wesley Tinley on Unsplash
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.