Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise."
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me."
Last Sunday readings focused our attention on the mystery of the Cross in order to understand who Jesus is. In the Gospel of last Sunday, the disciples misunderstood the identity of Jesus and so Jesus took the opportunity to tell them his true identity by foretelling his suffering, death and resurrection.
This Sunday, Mark in the Gospel takes us back to the same theme of the Cross, but this time, in terms of discipleship that implies powerlessness and vulnerability. That is the best way to understand our discipleship. Rather than giving us any privileged positions, discipleship renders us powerless and vulnerable in the perspective of the cross. The Gospel is on the second prediction of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus was teaching the disciples and telling them, “the Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But all that went over their heads. They did not understand, and Mark adds, “they were afraid to question him.” Why did they fail to understand? Mark reveals that “
They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” Aha! They still see Jesus as a conquering Messiah who liberates Israel and establishes an earthly kingdom. In that sense, they were discussing about who would be the Vice President in that kingdom; power positions. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them that he is a "Serving Messiah".
Following Jesus is about serving others rather than about power positions. If we wish to be first, we must be prepared to be last; if we wish to be great, we must be prepared to be like little children; if we want to be leaders, we must be prepared to be servants of all. Jesus used the example of little children because during his time children were symbols of “non-persons”, without any power and often unprotected. Children were therefore symbols of powerlessness and vulnerability. Jesus reminds us today that rather than being concerned about positions of power in the Church, we should be more concerned about those without power and the most vulnerable in our midst.
As in today’s Christian community, ambition and jealousy were also among the close followers of Christ, making it difficult to understand Jesus’ call to a life of service and suffering. Jesus offers a clear catechesis on Christian leadership as humble service. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all”.
As Christians, we are called to a humble service that involves a spirituality of service; a spirituality of powerlessness and vulnerability. So what message do we take home?
1) Our discipleship, our call to follow Christ the "Serving Messiah" is a call to powerlessness and vulnerability and not to a position of power and authority;
2) We are called to leadership of humble service that involves the possibility of the cross not comfort;
3) We must be very weary when discussions in the Church are about positions rather than caring for those without power and the most vulnerable.
How then can we apply this to our lives this week? Can we do one unselfish thing for others this week that gives us no return on that investment? Can we become a servant for someone else this week, expecting no reward, except being close to Jesus? Who is comparable in our society to a child, someone with no status and no power, someone helpless? Can we do something hospitable to that person? That is the challenge this week given by Jesus the Teacher – the teacher who always surprises us and makes us look at our value system and realize, as was pointed out to Peter last week, God’s ways are not our ways.
St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)