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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Sept. 23, 2012

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

September 23, Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:

1) Wisdom 2:12, 17-20

Psalm 54:3-8

2) James 3:16-4:3

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

The young major leaguer was pitching in a critical game of a championship series. Although he faced some of the greatest hitters in baseball, he exhibited incredible calmness on the mound. He was giving his best effort and appeared to be enjoying the fact that his curveball was working.

By contrast, opposing batters were feeling the stress of the moment, kicking up dust or arguing with the umpire with every little frustration.

Noting this, the broadcaster remarked that before the game he had talked with the pitcher about his attitude: "I asked him how he handles the pressure, and he said, 'This? This isn't pressure. This is fun. Let me tell you about pressure: My dad is a butcher and he had five kids to feed and clothe. He couldn't miss work or ever let down because he had to bring home a paycheck every week. That's pressure.'"

This young man was surrounded on the baseball field by talented athletes, constantly competing with one another to be the best -- for fame, glory, exorbitant salaries. But he recognized true greatness. He saw it in his father whose singular ambition was to faithfully love and care for his family.

The readings this week reveal the nature of true greatness in the eyes of God and warn that selfish ambition leads to no positive effect. James points out that jealousy and personal ambition bring "disorder and every foul practice." In fact, he suggests, it is envy and competition to best others that leads to wars and conflict among people.

In the Gospel, even Jesus' disciples fall into debating which of them is the greatest. But Jesus explains that wishing to be number one misses the point of life's basic pursuit. If one really wants to be a great human being, he emphasizes, one must put the concerns of others first and be "the servant of all." Later Jesus would prove it to perfection.

If Jesus' closest followers were enticed by selfish ambition for greatness, we know that it's a temptation that dogs all of us. We must look for examples of servants among us and follow their example.


How do you deal with the temptation of selfish ambition? Who do you look to as a strong model of "servant of all"?


"The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity." - James 3:17


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