Today’s reflection is for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 23, 2018.
I remember reading a wonderful book a number of years back called, Fr. Joe. Click here for the book. Father Joe claimed that the number one problem with the world, and ultimately what lies at the root of every sin, is selfishness. Every other sin is in some way a manifestation of asserting my will over and against God and Neighbor, and keeps me from abiding by the #1 Commandments of Jesus–to love them.
The bottom line is this, God is love, and by its nature, love is self-diffusive; it pours forth. It is other-seeking. The one who is selfless is indeed close to God.
On the other hand, selfishness is self love. It turns inward and loves itself for its own sake. The selfish person cannot see past his own wants, his own needs, his own problems, and even his own solutions. The selfish person cannot possibly image God–cannot know God, and worships himself as God. How lonely.
All of today’s readings point to this basic truth, namely, peace is from God and conflict comes from within. Selflessness leads to love and peace. Selfishness leads to division, and get, arrogance, and pain–and blinds us to what is good and true and holy. James says it well, “Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.” Wisdom is from God and calls us to concern ourselves with the good of others.
On the other hand, James goes on, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.” James 3:16-4:3
And isn’t this indeed the condition in which we find so many problems in the world today? How can there be so great a separation between the haves and the have nots? How can there be so much waste and so many in need? How can we have such a great divide between poor and wealthy individuals, communities, and countries. Selfishness blinds us to the Common Good and makes my only concern what is good for me. We stop asking, “What’s good?” and instead ask, “What’s in it for me?”
This attitude must not and cannot be found among the disciples of Christ. Concern for the common good was the concern of Jesus himself, and is the whole reason he came to earth–so that others could be healed and know salvation. His passion and death was the example of service to others. The teaching of the Church on the Common Good can be found here, as it stands as the foundation for the 7 Themes of Catholic Social Teaching, all of which help us to fulfill Jesus’ teaching to his disciples in today’s Gospel.
Like selfish children, Jesus’ disciples have no sooner heard of his exit than they already begin to imagine their own grand entrance! They begin to bicker as they posture for who will succeed him. In their own desire for power or prestige they argue with each other. The Gospel tells us, “They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” Mk 9:30-37
Jesus doesn’t miss this important opportunity to teach them about humility and service that are the hallmark of the Christian life. Not fame, not fortune, neither wealth, nor health (no matter what some televangelists claim), but only humble servanthood. Of Christ’s disciples the only comment should be, “See how they loved one another.” That means we need to be a lot more selfless tomorrow than we were today. Join me.
To what degree do I concern myself and sacrifice to alleviate the suffering of others? Do you have any examples?
How committed are you to the “common good” as opposed to what is only good for you, or your community?
Are you familiar with the Church’s teaching on the 7 Principle ways in which we renew and help to recreate the social order?