Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 25 Sunday of Ordinary Time – 23 September 2012 – Who Do We Say We Are?


25 Ordinary B September 23, 2012  – Who Do We Say We Are?

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54:3-6,8; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37

In this week’s gospel, the disciples were thinking only of themselves and who among them was the greatest. Jesus says to them — look, if you really want to friend me you have to accept this little child. When you accept the child you embrace not only me but also the Holy One who sent me. Jesus really confused them.

For us to understand this passage we have to forget for a moment how we idealize childhood. Modern social science suggests that our cultural definition of children can affect our self image as adults. [1] No doubt parents treasured their children during the time of Jesus. However, in the public eye, “children had no social status or value whatsoever; until adulthood they were nobodies.”  [2]

The disciples had to make a difficult decision. They were being asked to accept little children as their equals. If they were to welcome children they would be breaking with the customs of their time. Yet, if they wanted to follow Jesus they had to put aside their own self promotion. Last week Betsy Rowe-Manning preached about who Jesus is in our lives. This week the question is turned on us. Who do we say we are?

Time was running out for Jesus and he sensed his death was imminent. He was even feeling betrayed. It seemed as if the disciples still did not comprehend what Jesus was doing nor did they understand their role in carrying out his mission. By way of example, Jesus invited them to a new way of relating to people regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or social class.

The letter from James is an exhortation to be considerate of one another. Last week a man who once served time in prison spoke to a group of us here in church. He talked about being held in a spiritual and psychological jail before being locked up for his crimes. Daryl said the hardest thing to learn is to “fight for the rights of others and not to be selfish.”

There are many, many children in our country who are not cared for, whose rights to a decent life have been taken away from them. Statistics on child trafficking, domestic violence, pedophilia and poverty portray an unromantic but realistic picture of childhood in America. An analysis of the 2010 census statistics reveals that one-in-five children in the United States lives in poverty. Why? Because more and more families are forced to live below the poverty line. While most parents try their best to provide for their children sometimes the opportunities for some of them to succeed are just not there. How will God uphold their lives? (Today’s Psalm 54) God needs our help.

Take for example Providence House operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph in New York City. “Their program has nurtured more than 12,000 women parolees and their children back from the brink.” [3]  Another good reason to stand with the Sisters!

Thankfully, our food pantry and other city-wide programs help to ease the pain. Here at St. Vincent’s there are also opportunities for our teens and youths to connect the word of God with everyday life. Today we are recognizing the young men and women who realize there is a holy spirit in their lives. Our faith formation programs and Sunday Youth Days are designed to engage students of all ages in a spiritual learning experience. Today is the first Youth Day and the topic is “justice and morality.” Our children’s liturgy of the word offers younger boys and girls a chance to hear God’s word at their own age level.

Before his execution on the cross Jesus challenged his disciples to get a better grip on who they were by asking them to embrace children. He was saying the greatest among us are those who serve others. Who do we say we are?


1 Cornelissen, Sharon. “The Representations of Childhood and the Self-Image of Adults in Modernity: The Image of the Child as ‘Other’ or Part of the Narrative of Life.” in Social Cosmos – URN:NBN:NL:UI:10-1-100189.

2 See Donahue & Harrington, Mark, 285 in Byrne, Brendan. A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008) 152

“Speaking the Truth to the Vatican” in  The New York Times, 9/18/12, page A12


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

4 thoughts on “Homily – 25 Sunday of Ordinary Time – 23 September 2012 – Who Do We Say We Are?

  1. Hi Father , Your homily was great today. You connected the readings to our every day lives . I was really touched by your words.I’ve been faced with hungry children when I was teaching.Some of my kids didn’t get breakfast ( before breakfast was provided at school) & kids who didn’t have money . I brought breakfast food to school for the ones that needed & the kids that had no money for lunch got the money they needed.


  2. Once again, your homily was very powerful. You are deft at putting out a strong message about the teachings of Jesus and not openly mentioning politics. As we approach election day, I am happy that you are keeping what is important on our minds and in our hearts. I hope we are all able to remain open to your message. We will look forward to reading your next homily online.


  3. Did you really say “if you really want to friend me”? Great connection! “Peaceful, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits’ — we can all be mindful of James’ words.

    I am sorry I missed Daryl’s presentation. The image of a spiritual and psychological jail is powerful.


  4. Like the “who do we say we are”, but have to mention the poverty level in the US is about $22 K / year for a family of four while the average income for half the rest of the world is about $3K / yr for the same family of four. So, who do we as a nation say we are????????????????


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