The readings for the 25th Sunday in ordinary time remind us that we live in a fallen world. The world we live in has separated itself from God’s plan for the world when he created it. We have concepts of law and justice and righteousness and transgressions but they no longer mean what God intended for them to mean. And that’s because of the fall of man.
The fall of man refers to that original decision by Adam and Eve, who stand as our parents, to turn away from the true relationship they had with our God because they found the lure of the knowledge of God too tempting to resist. In the garden of Eden Satan said that if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would know what God knows and be like God. This is a lie. It is a lie with disastrous consequences for Adam and Eve and all their children, which includes us.
The reading from the Book of Wisdom can be read as the attitude of the world in which we live towards the church in which we pray. The world has rejected God. The world has come up with a system of interaction which we call our culture or our society, and that system is now disconnected from God. That’s why the world is falling. The world has lost the state of grace because Adam and Eve turned away from God. When we were baptized, we were made members of the church and restored to a relationship of grace. Our baptism repaired the brokenness of that original sin which we inherited from Adam and Eve.
But not all the world is in the church. And always throughout the history of the world, worldliness has crept into the church. That’s why the life of the disciple of Christ is a life of continuing conversion.
Inside the church sometimes, and outside the church always, the evil one is trying to upset the just one because he is obnoxious to the devil. The devil accuses us. He tries to get us to take our eyes off our Lord and be distracted by worldly things – even inside the Church.
Look at the Gospel story today. We are at the turning point in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus tells his disciples what is really going to happen. He lets them know that the Son of Man will be handed over to men, who will kill him. He tells them that he will rise from the dead after three days. This is incredible stuff to hear from your rabbi. Of course they did not understand him. But he gave them great mysteries to ponder. He gave them great questions to consider.
Instead, they start arguing about who will be the greatest in Heaven. How badly they missed the point. How little they even considered the ramifications of what Jesus had told them. They were not tuned in to what the Lord was saying to them; they were tuned in to minor things.
We cannot let ourselves as Christian witnesses today be tuned into minor things. We need to think about the big things. The big thing of our faith is that God loves us so much he sent his only begotten Son to die on a Cross for our sins. With the Resurrection on Easter morning, we are promised salvation. We are promised eternal peace in the presence of God. We call that Heaven.
The Cleveland Browns just won a football game for the first time in nearly two years. Just imagine how difficult it has been for the faithful Browns fan. Game after game, the team stumbles. Trade after trade, the front office bumbles. Quarterback after quarterback, the fan base is humbled. How did they hang in there? They had faith.
We as Christians should have even more faith in Jesus Christ than the Cleveland fans had faith in their Browns team. By the promise of Jesus Christ, we know that we will receive the gift of everlasting life. Imagine the life of a Browns fan who had been given the foresight to know that in September of 2018 they were guaranteed to beat the New York Jets and finally get a win. And a come from behind win. Those are so satisfying! A Browns fan who knew the future would be able to endure the losing streak without losing his sense of joy. He knows a precious truth that most of the football world does not know. He knows his team wins in the end.
We Christians have an even better promise. If we can stay faithful to the just one, the Son of God, we will be able to endure all the revilement and torture the wicked one can throw at us, as Solomon writes in the Book of Wisdom. If we can stay faithful to the wisdom from above, we can be peaceable and gentle where all around us jealousy and selfish ambition exist, as St. James writes. If we can be the last of all and a servant to all while those around us argue who is the greatest, then we will receive Jesus and not only Jesus but the One who sent him, as St. Mark writes in the Gospel.
The road to Heaven has many potholes. It’s uphill both ways, and its always raining. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus and the One who sent him, we will get there. If we choose peace and gentleness while the world chases selfish ambition, we will get there. If we choose to serve while the world argues about greatness, we will get there.
The Browns finally won a football game. Orthodox Christians know we will win the salvation game if we don’t get distracted by the petty games of the world.