Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20; James 3: 16–4: 3; Mark 9: 30-37
One of the themes of Mark’s Gospel is that of “movement”. The disciples and Jesus are always on the go as the gospel proceeds, at least until the passion when it will come to a screeching halt. Mark, though, would not be the one to read if you want a geography lesson on this part of the world because they’re all over the place! But there’s another more profound movement that takes place in Mark’s Gospel and we hear it today, “once they were inside the house”. There’s a movement from outside to inside with this Gospel and when we hear that they were inside the house our ears should perk up because it usually indicates something important is about to be taught. It’s not just about being inside the house. It’s a symbolic move that shifts them to their own interior life, within their hearts, that this message needs to penetrate. It’s here where what really needs to happen in moving to a changed heart for the disciples and us and where their own interior struggle is revealed.
The crazy thing of the story is that Jesus isn’t even dead yet and they’re already fighting about who’s the greatest, who’s the most important, who has the power, and all the rest. You could just imagine them bickering about all of it as if they were waiting for that moment. Yet, there’s Jesus just going along with them until they enter the recesses of their own hearts where the shallowness of the argument begins to reveal itself. He goes to the extent of bring a child into the center to teach them what this life as a disciple is all about because the child would have no place in society and certainly no standing. Such as it is with the disciples. No bickering of greatest and power and who’s the best but rather of service and humility. When we remain on that level of conflict there is a lack of humility and conflict continues.
It’s what James tells us in today’s second reading. He goes onto say that we shouldn’t even have to ask ourselves why war, conflict, division, and this clamoring for power exists because even to this day we refuse to do our interior work, to get our own house in order. All these writers would remind us even to this day that life is about being lived from the inside out; that if we get our own house in order, our own interior life, then there is less need for jealousy and selfish ambition as he tells us today. As a matter of fact, he’d go onto say that if we have the need to boast about how wise we are, how great we are, how smart we are, and all the rest then it does quite the opposite. It goes onto show just how empty we can be in our own interior life and how empty the house really is. Yet, it’s our culture in the Church and certainly in our nation, that we believe that all the externals are in place, we dress the part and play the part, then all is fine, despite the fact that more often than not we’re living a lie. The more we neglect our own house, our own interior, the more we tend to act upon our jealousies and selfish ambitions. Quite frankly, it’s easier to live the blame game and blame everyone else for our problems. Yet, James reminds us they are still there, lurking below the surface in our own homes, our own interior lives.
Solomon, the writer of Wisdom would tell us the same. He speaks of that wickedness that tends to dominate our interior when we neglect it. He portrays for us in many ways the image of the true Israelite. Yet, the wicked ones, who claim power and wisdom, are doing everything to undo him and to expose him as a fraud, not realizing that they are the frauds in it all. They don’t quite know what to do with themselves because once Solomon does his own work and gets his own house in order, they no longer have control or power over him. It’s what pushes them to try to undo him and prove him as a fraud. Yet, Solomon has nothing to prove. Solomon recognizes his own wickedness and has learned to reconcile it within himself. War, conflict, division, and all the rest continues to plague us on all levels because we refuse to get our own house in order. It’s easier to blame and to allow our own “wickedness” to come out towards others, all along emptying of us of the very fullness of life that we desire within our own interior life. We begin to separate ourselves from our own humanity and cast our sin upon the other.
We need to get our own house in order. The invitation of Jesus this evening is the invitation to each of us, to come inside the house. Sure, we often fear that place within ourselves, but it’s the only path towards healing and reconciliation and a change of heart. The path of discipleship is not only of service but of humility and that humility is revealed in the interior wisdom when we begin the oft painful process of getting our house in order.
We pray for the grace this day to enter the house over and over again, to our own interior lives and confront our own wickedness that torments us as it did the ideal Israelite and will certainly torment the disciples as they face Jerusalem. The appearance of humility and wisdom is just not enough. It continues to reveal how bankrupt our culture can become and that culture in turn influences our politics and our Church. We become what we hate and settle for lies over the stream of wisdom that flows within the house, our very hearts. We all desire that fullness of life but it will never come by focusing solely on the exterior world of power, success, wealth, and all the rest. They will only leave us more anxious and empty. The fullness of life we desire lies within, when we can live our lives from the inside out.