Week of 17th September 2018 (reference: readings for Sunday 23rd September)
25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: The Book of Wisdom 2,12.17-20; James 3,16-4,3; Mk 9,30-37
“The wisdom that comes from above is pure, peaceful, understandable and generous, full of mercy and good works, impartial and without hypocrisy.”
The theme of this week’s reflection is the relationship among us, Vincentian fellow members and brothers.
As support for this reflection, the readings make a comparison between the “wisdom of God” and the “wisdom of the world”.
In the Gospel, the disciples are concerned about “who should be the most senior among them,” because they still act according to what the world demands of them. Jesus, on the other hand, supported by God’s logic, accepts the project of the Father and makes out of his life a gift of love to men. He strengthens the concept that there is only one place for those who want to be part of the Christian community and that this is not a place for seniors or minors, but for those who hear the challenges of God and accept to transform life into a service to the brothers, especially to the humble, to the smaller, to the poor. Notice that Jesus does not say that being a Christian is to “hide” the gifts that God gives us by grace; on the contrary, it is to put these gifts at the service of others.
In the second reading, James clearly indicates that the “wisdom of the world” generates violence, divisions, conflict, unhappiness and death. And the first reading goes a bit further, saying that the “wisdom of God” (the one of service), causes hate, envy and persecution from others, and the subsequent suffering for those who embrace the coherence of the life in God. In the readings of last week, Christ reinforces this point by saying that “If someone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8: 27-35).
In the SSVP, do we sometimes take on the behaviour of the Apostles and want to be “greater” than others, often even “at any price”? We hear stories about Vincentians who made campaigns or “agreements” to obtain positions in the Society. In fact, to be president of councils, can bring status, the possibility to travel or to manage many resources. The temptation of making a “Vincentian career” is great!
Ozanam showed a completely different option. Perhaps because he was the founder of the SSVP, perhaps because he had a brilliant professional career (and did not need to use the Society as status), perhaps because he deeply understood the sense of the Gospel’s “service to others”, or maybe because he wanted to give an example to others, he never wanted to be the president of the International General Council. I believe that his choice was the result of all these virtues.
This does not mean that we should not accept roles of leadership in the SSVP when necessary! Thousands of Vincentian saints, starting with Bailly, accepted these positions. But they accepted them as a donation and not as personal promotion. To be a vincentian committed with the humble and genuine service to our fellow members is to embrace the holiness in the same intensity as to serve the poor, our lords and masters!