Sept. 21, 2003         25 Sunday (Yr. B) Mark 9:30-37   Bias for Poor  


       (Am on sabbatical but helping out on weekends at my former St. Patrick’s parish in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  Always great to hear from you: [email protected] - Fr. Gene Thalman.)


            In my American culture, people often show their love for another person by giving that person a hug.


One day, the grandparents came to visit three year old Petzerina and her mother. Grandmother asked:  “Petzerina, do you love me?”  And Petzerina smiled and said:  “Oh, I do love you grandma!”  Then she ran and gave grandma a hug.  Then grandma said:  “Do you love grandpa?”  Petzerina said:  “Oh, I do love grandpa.”  And she gave him a hug.  After the grandparents left, Petzerina was very quiet.  Finally she went to her mother and said:  “I love God.  How can I hug God?”


This is a profound theological question.  Today’s gospel gives us the answer to the question:  “How can we hug God?”


GOD’S POINT OF VIEW  Today’s gospel addresses the question of “how people can hug God.”


Last week Mark summarized (one-glance-sees-all) the first half of his gospel with Peter’s recognition that (8: 27-30 Jesus is the


Messiah, the long awaited savior.


Today Jesus instructs the apostles that he will go to Jerusalem suffer, die and rise from the dead.  “The disciples did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.”[1]


To take their minds off gloomy things, the apostles talked about happy things.  They begin making their plans for the task of governing the Kingdom of God.  They were arguing about which of them would have the “greatest” positions.


Jesus was discouraged.[2] So Jesus saw this little child sitting in the corner. Perhaps the child was dirty and had snot dripping from his nose.


In Hong Kong and China, boys are sometimes treated as “little emperors.”  But in Jesus’ culture, children had no rights and were a symbol of the powerless.


Jesus explained: “If you want to be great, you have to be the servant of the little powerless people.”


Then Jesus surprises all of us with a profound piece of theology.   When you serve a powerless person like this child, you are truly great.  The more powerless the person, the greater you are!  Moreover when you embrace a powerless person, you are really embracing me.   And when you embrace me you are embracing God, my Father.  In other words, you are


hugging Almighty God!


And Jesus put his arms around the little kid and gave him a hug and a squeeze.  Maybe he wiped his nose, too.  I don’t know.


          CHURCH’S POINT OF VIEW  The new Catechism also addresses the issue of “hugging God.”


          Did you ever go to a government office and stand in a long line.  Suddenly, the clerk brings an importantly dressed westerner to the front of the line.  Don’t we feel angry!  “Who does that person think he is?  What right does he have to special treatment?  I will report that clerk for giving preferential treatment to that man.”


          Yet, our official catechism the Catholic Church boasts that it gives preferential treatment to some people.


It says in the New Catechism: “Hence those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of


a preferential love


 on the part of the Church…” (#2448)


The term “preferential love” is a modern term.  But it is a way of saying what Jesus says today in the gospel. Jesus shows a “bias” in favor of the poor. The Church has incorporated this term in new Catechism.


Right here in our Hong Kong Diocese, the Catholic Church is biased in favor of the powerless.   Last summer there were four parishes without pastors.  Why weren’t there enough priests for parish work?  Because some priests don’t do parish work! One priest is a chaplain to prisons.  Another priest is working with the runaway kids.  Another priest is busy serving those seeking the right of abode.  Another priest spends time away from a busy parish to aid the lepers in China. Why do the poor get preferential treatment?  I will tell you why: “Jesus said so!”


I am proud to say that we at St. Patrick’s community are biased.  We give preferential service to the elderly, the sick, the mentally handicapped and the kids. 


          CALL FOR HUGGERS    When we put our arms around the poor, we put our arms around Jesus and when we hug Jesus, we hug God.  Will the members of St. Patrick’s community, Wang Tau Hom, always remember that?    “Yes, we will!”    (I didn’t hear anything!) 


Oh yes, we will!”




Sept. 21, 2003         25 Sunday (Yr. B) Mark 9:30-37   Bias for Poor 




THEME:                 As followers of Jesus we have a BIAS (preferential love)  for the poor.


TEXT:  “Jesus then took a little child …put his arms around him.”


CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: # 2448 “Hence those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which …has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation…”



SCRIPTURE: Last week we concluded the first half of Mark’s gospel in which Peter (8: 27-30) and the apostles for first time clearly recognize that Jesus is the promised who has come to save the world.  Now beginning in 8:31, Jesus begins the difficult task of revealing himself as the


Son of Man.


Because Jesus is the Son of Man, he will suffer and die like all of us human beings. For the present his divine glory is hidden. Jesus will now tells the apostles on occasions that he will suffer, die and rise. The apostles don’t understand. Jesus instructs them. 


Now the Church year skips the last three verses of Chapter 8 and the first 29 verses of Chapter nine.  (On the feast of the Transfiguration we have already used Mark 9:2-10.  The other story is that of the possessed boy.


DOCTRINE:   We touch God, who is pure spirit, through His Son, Jesus.  Today we touch Jesus through service to the powerless, the enslaved and the oppressed.




“There is a massive spiritual waste basket full of undigested sermons.”

25 Sunday (Yr. B) Mark 9:30-37   Bias for Poor          


1.      ___T/F God loves good people more than he loves sinners.

2.      ___T/F God loves everyone equally.

3.      Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a p_______    l_____ on the part of the C________.

4.      When we put our arms around the powerless and support them, we are actually hugging  A_______    G____.

5.      The Church not only gives the powerless direct relief, she also d______ them and seeks to l_______ them from all forms of oppression.

6.   (Optional) Describe an occasion when you felt powerless.

[1] I wonder how many here at St. Patrick’s community will not understand the gospel today and will be afraid to ask.  How many of us are afraid to ask about our journey with Jesus to the unknown?


[2] I appreciate how Jesus must have felt.  On the 22 Sunday,  I gave what I thought was a crystal clear sermon.  But the examinations showed that my listeners had missed most of the true/false questions!)