Mark 9:30-37 (see below “Finding Christ in the Psalms”)
In today's First Reading, it's like we have our ears pressed to the wall and can hear the murderous grumblings of the elders, chief priests and scribes – who last week Jesus predicted would torture and kill Him (see Mark 8:31; 10:33-34).
The liturgy invites us to see this passage from the Book of Wisdom as a prophecy of the Lord's Passion. We hear His enemies complain that “the Just One” has challenged their authority, reproached them for breaking the law of Moses, for betraying their training as leaders and teachers.
And we hear chilling words that foreshadow how they will mock Him as He hangs on the cross: “For if the Just One be the Son of God, He will…deliver Him…” (compare Matthew 27:41-43).
Today's Gospel and Psalm give us the flip side of the First Reading. In both, we hear of Jesus' sufferings from His point of view. Though His enemies surround Him, He offers himself freely in sacrifice, trusting that God will sustain Him.
But the apostles today don't understand this second announcement of Christ's passion. They begin arguing over issues of succession — over who among them is greatest, who will be chosen to lead after Christ is killed.
Again they are thinking not as God, but as human beings (see Mark 8:33). And again Jesus teaches the Twelve — the chosen leaders of His Church — that they must lead by imitating His example of love and self-sacrifice. They must be “servants of all,” especially the weak and the helpless – symbolized by the child He embraces and places in their midst.
This is a lesson for us, too. We must have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself to come among us (see Philippians 2: 5-11). We must freely offer ourselves, making everything we do a sacrifice in praise of His name.
As James says in today's Epistle, we must seek wisdom from above, desiring humility not glory, and in all things be gentle and full of mercy.
Finding Christ in the Psalms
Jesus taught His Apostles that the Book of Psalms speaks of Him and His mission. “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled,” He told them on the night of His Resurrection (see Luke 24:44).
Jesus applied specific Psalms to himself (see Matthew 21:42-44 and 22:41-46). So did the apostles in their preaching and writings (see Acts 2:25-35 and Hebrews 1:5-14).
This ancient practice continues in the liturgy. In the Psalms chosen for Sunday Mass readings, sometimes the Church invites us to hear a direct reference to Christ. Other times, we're invited to hear the voice of Christ crying out to the Father. And still other times, we hear the Father talking to the Son.
Psalm 54 is heard this way in the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally sung by David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19-25 and 26:1-3), we're invited to hear the Psalm as a confident appeal by Christ in His Passion: “Fierce men seek My life…Behold…the Lord sustains My life.”
The same is true of the use of Psalm 116 in the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B). We hear our Lord's voice as He gives thanks that God has rescued Him, freed His soul from death and the snares of the nether world.