25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year BReadings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Jam 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
Ambition, Envy and Jealousy are the three evils that darken our vision as disciples of Jesus Christ. Consequently, we miss the central point of our calling as disciples, namely the Cross. Last Sunday readings focused our attention on the mystery of the Cross in order to understand who Jesus is. This Sunday, Mark in the Gospel takes us back to the mystery of the Cross. We notice how ambition, envy and jealousy get in the way of the disciples, leading them to miss the point of what Jesus is teaching them. Rather than giving us any privileged positions, discipleship renders us powerless and vulnerable in the perspective of the cross. The Gospel passage starts with Jesus teaching about his suffering, death and resurrection. He tells them that “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 are so blinded by ambition, envy and jealousy that they do not understand. Moreover, “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.” They still see their association with Jesus as being a possibility for high positions in the kingdom. In other words they were discussing about who would be the Vice President in that kingdom; about power positions. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them that he is not a conquering but a “Serving Messiah.” 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 they were symbols of powerlessness and vulnerability. Jesus reminds us today that, we should be more concerned about those without power and the most vulnerable in our midst.
I recently heard a story told by a parishioner. A young boy in a certain parish once asked how one becomes a Pope in the Catholic Church. So the boy was told that one has to become a priest first. The boy fumed and would not take any of that. He said no, I would like to be a Pope! What an ambitious kid! Not only do we want to have the top positions, but we are even capable of destroying others psychologically in order to make sure we get to the top! As in today’s Christian community, ambition and jealousy were also among the close followers of Jesus Christ, making it difficult to understand Jesus’ call to a life of service and sacrifice. Jesus offers a clear catechesis on Christian leadership as humble service that includes the cross. “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 Jesus 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 a 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 power positions rather than caring for those without power and the most vulnerable.
©2012 John S. Mbinda