Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
The tone of the Gospel begins to grow darker: Jesus is now on his way to Jerusalem, where he will be arrested and killed. Despite this, both this week and next week, there is a lighter contrast in the children that Jesus welcomes and blesses. Perhaps this tells us something about Jesus and his mission: despite the gathering clouds, (and possibly even because of that) he is still the manifestation of God's love for all his children, a love that will be most clearly displayed when he faces that death for our sake. There is one quite chilling phrase which links these together, in the first reading, where the plotters against the good man say “Let us test him with cruelty and torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his.” The cold calculation of this is not far removed from the plotting of those who saw in Jesus a threat to their positions ‑ with all his purity of worship and faith, with all his “reproaches for our breaches of the law”. There is indeed a storm gathering. But the last line of the first reading, though meant mockingly, will come true: “God will look after him ‑ we have his word for it.” And three days after his death he will rise again.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Wisdom 2:12.17‑20
There is something quite horrible about this reading. For most of us, coming into contact with evil is an unsettling experience, and that is what we encounter here. The cold and calculating plan of the godless, motivated as it seems simply by jealousy and annoyance, is something that we will contemplate with distaste. And yet we must still be faithful to this as God's word: it tells us not just about the godless, but about the sufferings that virtuous men and women have faced and will face throughout our history ‑ it tells us about the heroism of virtue. Understand the reading, and allow its message to reach your listeners. If they too are shocked and revolted at the callousness of the godless, then you will have been faithful to the words on the page.
Second Reading: James 3:16 - 4:3
The clarity of this reading, and the way it tackles issues head on is extremely refreshing. Take for instance Saint James's comments on not getting what we pray for: he answers it bluntly: “it's because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.” Enjoy this bluntness in Saint James. Read to your congregation the same way James would speak to his own congregation ‑ pulling no punches, ‘telling it like it is.’ As in previous week, we seem to have a more reflective, theoretical section (the first paragraph), after which James rolls his sleeves up (as it were) and gives clear examples of what he means. Really allow the weight of his expression to come through: so the line “You want something and you haven't got it; so you are prepared to kill.” should be almost thrown out to the congregation, but left there for a moment for them to pick up. Keep an eye on the speed of your reading: don't go too fast ‑ if s very easy to get carried away with Saint James!