Ordinary 25th Sunday


Wis. 2: 17-20                                       Jam. 3:16-4:3                         Mk. 9: 30-37




A proper balance of self-centredness and altruism is a requirement for a happy life.



a). Two forces:

Science tells us that there are two forces which are at work in the universe. One is the centripetal force and the other is the centrifugal force. American Heritage Dictionary defines centripetal force as, ‘the component of force acting on a body in curvilinear motion that is directed toward the center of curvature or axis of rotation,’ and centrifugal force  as, ‘the apparent force, equal and opposite to the centripetal force, drawing a rotating body away from the center of rotation, caused by the inertia of the body.’


In simple words, centripetal force is the force which draws something towards the centre. Opposite to this is the centrifugal force. It basically pushes something away from the centre.  The word ‘fuga’ is a Latin word which means ‘moving away.’ (A phrase that was very much used in Christian circle in the early and middle centuries was ‘fuga mundi’ which  means ‘away from the world’) From this word fuga, we have the English words such as fugitive, refugees etc..


Everything in the universe is subjected to these two forces. Science tells us that it is the play of these two forces that are responsible for the harmonious movement of the planets in the orbits, and of even atomic particles. The world is the result of the constant display of the ‘pulls’ and the ‘pushes’ of these two forces.  It is the balance of these two forces that are responsible for the smooth going of this world and the universe.


b). Imbalance of these two forces:

When we look at these two forces of centripetal and centrifugal from psychological perspective, then we can say that the centripetal force is responsible for self-protection, self-preservation, self centeredness etc.. In practical terms, centripetal force involves self-assertion, gathering of knowledge and things, capacitating oneself, fulfilling one’s deeds, taking oneself seriously and so on. Needless to say that they are legitimate ones. The centrifugal force is responsible for our orientedness towards others, and thus it plays a crucial role in our relationship. It is this force that drives human beings towards self-sacrifice, self-emptying and altruism. Certainly we need these two forces in our life. A growing mark of maturity is that one balances the centripetal drive.


The problem with us, human beings, is that, we lean on any one side. In a special way, many get attached to their centripetal drive and become victims of it. It is this imbalance that makes a person excessively selfish, ruthlessly aggressive, and mercilessly aggrandizing things. It makes one to see everything in terms of the ‘I’. This also makes people so preoccupied with their self-centred needs such as recognition, fame and name etc..


The readings today present two groups of people  – one group which had achieved a balance of these two drives, and the other group which had not achieved it. In the gospel, we see Jesus predicting his own death – a death that he was to embrace because of his love for the humanity.  It was his altruism that was responsible for voluntarily coming forward to die to redeem the world. However we see the disciples being at the opposite of the spectrum. They were more self-centred and arguing among themselves who the greatest was.


James, in the second reading, beautifully brings out the dichotomy that is due to the imbalance of  these two  movements. On the one hand, he talks about the ill-effects of an overdose of centripetal drive which is responsible for envy, selfish ambition, conflicts, disputes, cravings, murder covetousness etc.. However, the people who walk in the path of centrifugal drive receive the wisdom that comes from above – the wisdom that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”


The first reading presents of the abusive words of the evildoers against the just. The evildoers are the ones who are the victims of their self-centred movement, while the just are the ones who have nurtured their centrifugal drive. It is the movement that draws a person out of him/herself and moves towards others and God. Since the just come out of themselves and be in touch with others and God, they are able to experience God’s guidance and protection in their lives.


c). Growing in balance:

The readings call us to have a proper balance of these two movements which are in us. We cannot curtail any of these two movements. However we can balance them in a healthy way so that the movement of our life is healthy, happy and harmonious.


When a person lives a life of unawareness, one automatically begins to give importance to centripetal drive which is nothing but survival instinct. These are people who constantly try to accumulate a lot. They are more prone to prove themselves, and tend to prove their superiority over others as the disciples did. A boy was searching for something in his daddy’s room. His daddy asked him, “What do you search for? Tell me and I will help you to get it.” The boy answered with all his innocence, “Mother always says that you are blowing your trumpet all the time. I just want to see that trumpet.”


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