"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Sept. 23: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Overview: This week’s readings contrast good and evil and show how goodness is often vilified by those who don’t believe in God.
The first reading paints a stark contrast between the righteous person and the wicked. The “just one” is reviled by ungodly men who test his faith by subjecting him to cruelty and torture. They hate him because his goodness, purity and faith call attention to their wickedness. From earliest times the Church has interpreted this passage in light of Christ’s suffering and death. It was chosen for its connection to this week’s Gospel where Jesus predicts his passion for a second time.
The second reading also contrasts good and evil. It describes the virtues of the righteous person who is first of all “pure and peaceable.” The righteous person experiences a deep, inner peace that comes from a clear conscience; a peace that bears fruit in the world. By contrast, the unrighteous person is full of “jealousy and selfish ambition,” the fruit of which is “disorder and every foul practice.”
This week’s Gospel has two parts. In the first part we hear Christ’s second prediction of his passion (the first one occurred after Peter’s profession of faith in last week’s Gospel). The second part contains Christ’s teachings about true leadership and greatness. The one who is called to lead, Jesus says, must be willing to serve and give his life for the sake of others. A truly great leader identifies with the poor, weak and vulnerable of this world, represented by the little child, which he places in their midst. Putting his arms around him, Jesus shows his disciples how they must renounce worldly power and embrace humility.
Key verse: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us” (Wis 2:12).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Before Christ’s second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth” (No. 675).
Pope Benedict XVI: Concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society” (Jan. 19 speech to U.S. bishops).
Life application: This week’s readings remind us that belief in God, fidelity to the Church, decency and moral rectitude are rarely rewarded. More often than not, vice is celebrated and virtue is mocked. Jesus said “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:12). The righteous person, however, doesn’t follow the herd or worry about what other people think. He trusts in God and stands firm in the faith for he knows that in the end his reward is in heaven.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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