Daily Reflection
September 24, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Wisdom 2:17-20
Psalms 54:3-8
James 3:16--4:3
Mark 9:30-37

There is a force in our human nature, both to reverence and protect innocence as well as to suspect and exploit it.  It is based in our own longings for innocence and our disappointments in having lost or disturbed our own.

We hear in today’s First Reading from Wisdom just such a picture of the hatred which can arise when innocence becomes a threat and judgment against the violent.  The reading is a simple review of human history.  Those individuals or groups who have tried to live and work for holiness; peace and justice are a public insult to those whose interests are opposite. 

Who is this “him,” in today’s reading, who trusts in God?  That person has so many names of our own times and past centuries as well.  Sir Thomas Moore, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Jean Donavan, Ita Ford and companions, Oscar Romero, Pope John Paul II and the list goes backwards and forwards.  Innocence is a brilliant light to those who live in the darkness of violent indulgence and a soft comforting glow to those whose simplicity is gently lived.

The Gospel for today continues the theme begun in last-weekend’s liturgy.  Jesus has to say what He feels will happen if He persists in living His personal truth.  By teaching and healing and simply being, He insults those for whom self-importance is absolutely absolute.  Jesus knows the ways of this world and speaks to his friends in words they do not yet understand.  Actually after hearing what Jesus says about His coming, suffering and death, they indulge in a group discussion on the topic of their own personal importance.  Jesus asks them to reverse field by telling them that the most important person is the one who serves others.  He takes a little child in His arms and says, “do no harm.”

The word “innocent” comes from the Latin “nocere” that is “to harm” so an “in-nocent” person is one who would do no harm.  The first rule or commitment of a doctor is to be innocent and thereby attempt to heal.  Jesus’ innocence is His divine love, which not only forgives, but also desires to continue and bring to healing the entirety of God's creation.  Most of us know how we have lost our innocence.  We have a personal history of doing harm to ourselves, to others, to creation and to God’s kingdom of love.  It is embarrassing for us to recall how our words and actions have reflected attitudes, which harm others for our benefit.  We also have lost our innocence by being harmed.  Our pictures of who we are have been scratched or have had damaging acids applied to them by the words and gestures of others.  Losing our innocence, whether actively or passively, always involves some form of sin.  It is God’s Will that we, ever so slowly, appreciate and then appropriate the person each of us is in God’s loving eyes.  When, by some violence done to that person or by that person, then self-acceptance and self-donation become crippled as from a harmful injury.

Jesus takes the little child in His arms as a revelatory gesture of how each of us is invited by Him, to welcome ourselves, embrace ourselves, because He does.  We have injured and we have been injured, but we are missioned by each sacramental encounter we have with Jesus, from Baptism through the Healing of the Sick, to be welcomed and welcoming to others, because we continue to allow Jesus to do the same with us.

When Jesus answers the question about which one is the most important, He replied that the most important will be the last of all and the servant of all.  Here is the center of it all then.  If we are last, because of having been harmed and remain injured by our choices or fears, then we are not last, but lost.  It is in allowing ourselves to be healed that we will serve Christ’s healing touch in the scratched and dented lives of others.

My father’s law firm has a wonderful motto, which is their mission statement as well; “The worst injury is the one, which is not properly represented.”  Who is the most important?  Each of us is if we allow our injuries to be most properly represented by Jesus, as our lives are properly re-presented to us.  In Jesus, we regain our innocence, no matter how we lost it or how it was taken from us.


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