Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Fr. Bernie Scianna.png

Bernard C. Scianna O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Readings
Is 53:10-11
Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
Heb 4:14-16
Mk 10:35-45

Jesus is fully human and fully divine! This is one of the great mysteries of our faith! Many times, we seem to focus only on the fact that he is fully divine; on his miracles, his power over nature, and his healings. And while these are important, it is equally important that Jesus was fully human; that he had thoughts and feelings and temptations like us!

Today we are encouraged to remember that he is fully human like us! He laughed and cried, he felt pain and sorrow, he enjoyed the company of others and at times needed to be alone, he celebrated joyful events with his family and friends, and he grieved when those close to him died. He was like us, fully human! Therefore, he is able to sympathize and emphasize with our human feelings, frailties, and weaknesses. According to the Letter to the Hebrews we should, therefore, feel confident in approaching Jesus and the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help because he understands what we are going through! I find this amazingly comforting and encouraging!

St. Augustine once said that “the divine became human (in the incarnation) so that we (humans) might become more divine!” He also said when referring to the Eucharist to “be what you see and receive what you are!” And during the Mass during the preparation of the gifts, the priest says a silent prayer, “By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” We are called to recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Again, if we stop and think about this, it is truly amazing! We are called to be the Body of Christ! We are called to be more Christ-like! We have the capability for great good, but because of the fall, we also have the capability for terrible evils…It all comes from within!

This reminds me of a story from the Native American tradition: An elder was teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The elder simply replied, “The one you feed!”

Can we dare to believe that Jesus experienced all the same emotions that we do and that are listed in this story? We, like Jesus, have the power to choose what wolf we feed! And the food we are encouraged to use to nurture and nourish the good within us is the Eucharist: the very body and blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus himself!

It’s easy to feel like a victim in challenging situations and circumstances in our lives. We want to understand our negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences, so we place blame on other people or events. We look outward to try to make sense of what’s going on inside of us. We do this all the time. Why? It’s our way of coping and feeling more in control of uncontrollable situations.

The problem with this approach, however, is that it takes away our personal responsibility and freedom of choice which is a great gift from God. In our attempt to feel more in control (by faulting others for our experience) we strip ourselves of our own power. That power is lost the moment we become dependent on other people or things to make us feel a certain way. Whether that feeling is positive or negative, we are no longer taking sole responsibility for our own emotions or experiences when we believe that they are a result of anything other than our own choice.

By exercising freedom of choice, you can make a life-changing decision of which wolf you want to feed. Do you feed the wolf who is hungry for anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego? Seems like some of the Apostles fell into this trap at times! And perhaps we have too at times. The evil wolf is your inner critic. The one who tells you that you are a failure, the one who says that no one will love you or understand you for who you are. This wolf is a representation of your depression, your anxiety, and your low self-esteem. Do you want to feed this wolf? Are you feeding him already?

By cutting off his food supply, you will be making a choice to use your energy and resources on thoughts, feeling, and emotions that serve you in healthy and holy ways. While you can recognize the negative emotions occurring within you, you don’t have to cling to them or continue to give them attention. You shifting your focus is a sign to that wolf that you are not interested in giving him food. And while it may take some time for that wolf to lose his strength and power, eventually he will surrender – as will your unhelpful thoughts and emotions. Once you stop fixating on them, they will eventually fade away.

So, what about the other wolf? Well, it certainly isn’t going to feed itself. You need to approach the altar often and receive the bread of life frequently!

Just as you would with the bad wolf, it is imperative that you exercise your freedom of choice and decide to nourish the wolf of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith like Jesus did! We often look to external objects for our fulfillment and happiness. We develop expectations that these things (a new job, a relationship, a vacation, a glass of wine, etc.) will finally make us feel the way we want to feel. And while this may bring momentary happiness, it isn’t realistic to maintain this long-term and to truly bring joy!

Joy isn’t a conditional state. It’s a state of being. Pope Francis reminds us that joy is a confident assurance of the Presence of God! True and lasting joy comes from making an active choice to be joyful, rather than depending on external things to make you happy. The more that we seek out joy and look for it as if it is a treasure we will find, the less we are feeding the negative wolf inside of us. You already have everything you need to be happy because you are whole and holy as you are, right now…You have the divine life within You, you are Sons and Daughters of God, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and Temples of the Holy Spirit! The feeling and experience of joy comes from feeding the good within You. As we become more like Jesus, we will be better equipped to handle all of life’s challenges. You must choose to feed on Christ, to BE What You See, and Receive What You ARE…The Body of Christ! Then we can serve the Lord without worrying about who is the greatest, who will sit on his right or left, but in humble serve be available to whatever the Lord asks of us!