Readings: Wis 2:12, 17-20; Jas 3:16-4:3; Mk 9:30-37
Ambition, envy and the spirituality of the cross are the key word that sum up the message of this Sunday. 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 and envy get in the way of the disciples, leading them to miss the point of what Jesus is teaching on his passion, death and resurrection. Rather than giving us any privileged positions, discipleship and stewardship make 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. Ambition and envy blinds them so much 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 a possibility for high positions in the earthly kingdom. In other words, they were discussing about power positions; about would be the Secretary of State and the Vice President in that kingdom. 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 once heard a story about young boy in a certain parish who asked how one becomes the Pope in the Catholic Church. 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 get to the top! As in today’s Christian community, ambition and envy were also among the close followers of Jesus Christ, making it difficult to understand his 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 and stewardship to follow Jesus Christ 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 a spirituality of the cross, powerlessness and vulnerability. 3) We must be very concerned when discussions at any level of church life are about power positions rather than caring for those without power and the most vulnerable in our midst.
©2015 John S. Mbinda