ILLUSTRATIONSLIFE MESSAGESCOMMENTARY

25th Sunday of Year B

HISTORICAL SPEECHES TV (3:26) – When Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke to the UN General Assembly in celebration of its 40th anniversary in October 1985, then Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar called her the “most powerful woman in the world” and added, “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.”

THE MOST POWERFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD!

At the screening of the film Mother Teresa during the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1983, the Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar rose from his seat to introduce St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) to an elite gathering of the representatives of all member countries of the U.N. He needed only one sentence for his introduction:  “I present to you the most powerful woman in the world!” (Hers was the power of humble and sacrificial Christian service!) On March 3, 1976, conferring on Mother Teresa the highest honor of India’s Vishwa Bharati University, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who was at that time Prime Minister of India, said: “I feel myself dwarfed when I stand before this holy and mighty woman who heroically showed the world how to practice Christian love in sacrificial and humble service.” 

For many years, the world watched, admired, and loved this small, elderly nun, always dressed in a blue-bordered white sari, as the incarnation of humble and sacrificing Christian service.  She was the living proof of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel that real greatness lies in serving others. She did this with love and compassion. Beginning in 1962, she was given several awards, national and international, in recognition of her greatness, attained through the humble service given to the “poorest of the poor.”

On Sept. 5, 1997, the day of the death of this saint who lived with us, practicing what Jesus commanded His disciples to do, Pope St. John Paul II said: “Mother Teresa marked the history of our century with courage.  She served all human beings by promoting their dignity and respect, making them feel the tenderness of God.”

THERE ARE NO PROFESSIONALS IN DYING

CLASSIC MOVIE DVD (16:26) – During WWII, a Red Cross volunteer comes to the South Pacific seeking information about the death of her soldier husband. Kerr is fine as the lonely woman struggling to cope with her loss. This is a strange role for Holden, who usually played characters with integrity. Although the actor is always worth watching, here his character is basically a dishonest heel. It’s hard to believe that someone like Kerr, no matter how vulnerable, falls in love with him.

In George Seaton’s film The Proud and the Profane, the steps of a young nurse are traced to a place called Iwo Jima where her husband had been killed in World War II.  She goes to the cemetery where her husband lies buried and turns to the caretaker, a shell-shocked soldier, who had seen her husband die.  “How did he die?” she asks.  “Like an amateur,” he replies.  “They teach you how to hurl a grenade and how to fire a mortar, but nobody teaches you how to die.  There are no professionals in dying.”

Most of us avoid the subject of death.  It’s a taboo subject.  We pretend that we are going to live forever.  But the only way we can keep up that pretense is through massive denial.  Woody Allen said, “When I die, all I want is just a few of my good friends to gather around the casket and do everything in their power to bring me back to life.” Everyone dies – that we can accept.  But somehow, we think we will be the exception. Jesus knew of the innate fear in the heart of the disciples concerning death,

His death and theirs.  Jesus also knew that they would all pay a terrible price for their future ministry.  So, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches the apostles that He is going to become the Messiah by His death and Resurrection.

BEETHOVEN’S PIANO

Sofronitsky – Beethoven’s moonlight sonata performed on his favorite piano A.Walter (by Paul McNulty)

On a visit to the Beethoven Museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the museum guard if she could play a few bars on it; she accompanied the request with a lavish tip, and the guard agreed. The girl went to the piano and tinkled out the opening of the “Moonlight Sonata.” As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” The guard shook his head. “Paderewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”

PERSECUTION OF THE JUST

RED ANCHOR FILMS (3:00) – Night by Elie Wiesel was written as a memoir to make sure we never forget what horrible events took place during the holocaust.

Elie Wiesel, Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner tells a disturbing story in one of his books about Auschwitz. As soon as children arrived by train at Auschwitz, together with the elderly and the sick, they were immediately selected for the gas chamber. On one occasion a group of children were left to wait by themselves for the next day. A man asked the guards if he could stay with the children during their last night on earth. Surprisingly, his request was granted. How did they spend that last night? He started off by telling them stories in an effort to cheer them up. However, instead of cheering them up, he only succeeded in making them cry. So, what did they do? They cried together till daybreak. Then he accompanied the little ones to the gas chamber. Afterwards he returned to the prison yard to report to work. When the guards saw him, they burst out laughing.

The story has most of the ingredients of our reading. In it we see the brazenness of the evil-doers, the persecution of the innocent, and the apparent triumph of evil, which is the subject of the first reading. The man’s heroic act of service towards the little ones shines out in the darkness of Auschwitz. He risked his life to befriend the little ones. He had no answers to give them, no salvation to offer them. All he could do was suffer with them and accompany them on their last journey. Though he was an ordinary person with no rank or status of any kind, he was undoubtedly the greatest person in that sad place on that sad occasion. What made him great was his goodness. (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

If you had not gone to feed the people, I would have left!

(Story for children): 1: A story is told about a Monk who longed to see Jesus in person, and who prayed every day that Jesus would appear to him. Each day he prepared a meal for the many hungry people who came to the gate of his monastery.  Then one day, as he was about to serve a meal to the hungry people, Jesus appeared to him in the kitchen.   At that moment, the bell at the gate rang, telling the monk that the hungry people had arrived. The monk was in a real dilemma:  should he stay and speak with Jesus or go and serve the hungry people.   The bell rang again, and the monk quickly made up his mind.  He hurried to the gate and served the meal he had prepared.   When he had finished, he was saddened by the thought that he had turned his back on Jesus.  When he returned to the kitchen, however, he found Jesus there waiting for him.  “Lord,” he said, “I thought that you would have left when I went to feed the people.”  “No,” Jesus replied, “If you had not gone to feed the people, I would have left!”

“I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees.”

Once upon a time there was a squire who longed to be a knight. He wanted to serve his king and be the most honorable and noble knight who ever lived. At his knighting he was so overcome by dedication that he made a special oath. He vowed to bow his knees and lift his arms in homage to his king and him alone. This knight was given the task of guarding a city on the frontier of the kingdom. Every day he stood at attention by the gate of the city in full armor. Years passed. One day as he was standing at attention guarding his post, a peasant woman passed by with goods for the market. Her cart turned over spilling potatoes and carrots and onions everywhere. The woman hurried to get them all back in her cart. But the knight wouldn’t help the poor woman. He just stood at attention lest he break his vow by bending his knees to help pick up the woman’s goods. Time passed and one day a man with one leg was passing by and his crutch broke. “Please help me noble knight,” he requested. “Reach down and help me up.” But the knight would not stoop or lift a hand to help lest he break his vow. Years and decades passed, the knight was getting old. One day his grandson came by and said, “Grandpa pick me up and take me to the fair.” But he would not stoop lest he break his vow to the king. Finally, after years the king came to visit and inspect the knight. As the king approached the knight stood there at attention. The king inspected him but noticed that the knight was crying. “You are one of the noblest knights I have ever seen why you are crying?”   “Your majesty, I took a vow that I would bow and lift my arms in homage to you, but I am unable to keep my vow. These years have done their work and the joints of my armor are rusted. I cannot lift my arms or bend my knees.”   With the loving voice of a parent the King replied, “Perhaps if you had knelt to help all those who passed by and lifted your arms to embrace all those who came to you, you would have been able to keep your vow to pay me homage today.”

Do you want to be God’s number one? Then practice stooping. Practice the art of humility. Reach down to give a hand to someone in need. Sacrifice your wants for the needs of another.

Episcopal careerism vs child-like innocence

Father John R. Donahue, (www.americamagazine.org): The Gospel reminds the Church today of the dangers of ambition and posturing for positions of power. In recent years the genie of ecclesiastical ambition has been again let out of the bottle, so much so that Cardinal Gantin, dean of the College of Cardinals and former prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, deplored episcopal careerism and said he was shocked by bishops seeking promotion from smaller to larger dioceses (America 6/19/99), a view echoed two months later by Cardinal Ratzinger … Yet the pilgrim Church of God’s people continues the work of justice, and the unprotected and vulnerable are welcomed and protected. Jesus has many unnamed companions today as He follows the path of self-giving for others that leads through death to resurrection. Only humility exalts. (Geneva Notes).

True Greatness

King Oscar II, monarch of Sweden and Norway at the turn of the century, enjoyed visiting schools and talking informally to the pupils. Calling on a village school one day, the king asked the pupils to name the greatest kings of Sweden. The answers were unanimous: Gustavus Vasa, Gustavus Adolphus, Charles XII. The teacher was embarrassed with the response, so she leaned over to one little boy and whispered something in his ear. “And King Oscar,” proclaimed the child. “Really? And what has King Oscar done that is so remarkable?” asked the King. ” I-I-I don’t know.” stammered the confused child. “That’s all right, my boy,” said the king. “Neither do I.” (Denis McBride; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

All God’s Children

There is a legend told about Abraham in the Mideast. According to the legend, he always held off eating his breakfast each morning until a hungry man came along to share it with him. One day an old man came along, and of course Abraham invited him to share his breakfast with him. However, when Abraham heard the old man say a pagan blessing over the food, he jumped up and ordered the old man from his table and from his house. Almost immediately, God spoke to Abraham. “Abraham! Abraham! I have been supplying that unbeliever with food every day for the past eighty years. Could you not have tolerated him for just one meal?”

We are all children of God. God has no grandchildren! (Jack McArdle in And that’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Do you know who I am?

When Nelson Mandela was a student lawyer in Johannesburg, he had a friend whose name was Paul Mahabane. Mahabane was a member of the African National Congress (ANC), and had the reputation of being a radical. One day the two of them were standing outside a post office when the local magistrate, a white man in his sixties, approached Mahabane and asked him to go buy him some stamps. It was quite common in those days for a white person to call on a black person to perform a chore. Paul refused. The magistrate was offended. “Do you know who I am?” he said, his face turning red with anger. “It is not necessary to know who you are,” Mahabane replied. “I know what you are.” The magistrate boiled over and exclaimed, “You’ll pay dearly for this,” and then walked away.

That white man was convinced that he was superior to Mahabane simply because he was a magistrate. And it had become second nature to him to expect others, especially if they were black, to serve him, ignoring the fact that both were God’s children. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

It can be hard work at times, but I enjoy it

In Ireland, foster care is the preferred option for children and young people in care. Foster families open their homes to a child or young person who comes to live with them. This can be for a short time until the birth families are in a position to provide safe care for their child, or in some circumstances children/young people will need to be in care for a longer period of time. There was a woman in Dublin who in 1988 started short-term fostering –she works for a Catholic Adoption Agency. She receives the baby when he/she is two or three days old, and usually has the baby for three months. Then the baby is taken back by the natural mother, or adopted, or goes to long-term fostering. This dear woman, by no means well-off, has fostered in a short time, over forty babies. She says, “It can be hard work at times, but I enjoy it.” She enjoys it because she does it with love.

Anyone who welcomes one of these little children, welcomes Me”, would be a fitting epitaph of her life. (Flor McCarthy, New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

Pope St. Gregory the Great, the servant of all

Pope St. Gregory I is one of three popes to whom the faithful have assigned the adjective, “the Great.” If the term “great” is appropriate for a man of colossal ability and effort who accomplished many wonderful things, it is well applied to St. Gregory. Born to a noble Roman family in the sixth century, he was first engaged as a public official in a Rome and an Italy that were almost falling apart because of the invasions of Germanic peoples from the north. Then he turned away from governmental work and became a monk. But the then-reigning pope did not allow him to remain long in the quiet of his beloved monastery. He sent him as papal ambassador to the emperor at Constantinople. When Gregory returned to Rome, he showed such skill as a churchman that in 590 AD he himself was elected pope, though he tried to avoid the office, fearing its heavy responsibility. Because he was so conscientious, his thirteen years as pope proved a godsend for the Church and for Europe. His influence was wide in a hectic era. He was in regular contact with the Frankish rulers of France. He sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to preach Christianity to the Angles and Saxons in Britain. He organized the defense of Italian cities against the Germanic Lombards. He did not hesitate to upbraid the Roman emperor at Constantinople for his acts and oppression. Meanwhile, in an Italy that was impoverished and fatherless, he became its leader, seeing to it that the farmers were treated justly, the Jews were defended, the poor were fed and clothed – even at the cost of selling the silverware of the churches. Nor did he forget his spiritual duties. He was a great preacher, a writer of popular spiritual books, a reformer of Church personnel and a reviser of the liturgy (the Gregorian chant of the Church gets its name from him). At the end of his life Gregory was ill and reduced to skin and bones, but he still kept on. Why? Because he considered himself not the lord of God’s people, but (as he always signed himself) the “Servant of the Servants of God.” That is why he merited the title “the Great.”

As today’s Gospel reminds us, “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain … the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).(Father Robert F. McNamara).

Why would Jesus choose a young child as a role model (in effect) for what it means to be “servant”?

Jesus is really challenging his followers to reconsider the cultural “wisdom” of first century Palestine! This was an “honor and shame” society, and “humility” was not the “in” word! But this is what Jesus urges the apostles to embrace: a willingness to serve others, rather than to compete for more “honor.” My brother deacons and I have a special fondness for the word “servant” used in this Gospel (Mk 9:35), because this is where our word diakonos or “deacon” comes from. A “servant” is one who obeys and humbly accepts a servant relationship with all humankind. But this is not limited just to Deacons! ALL Christians are called to be “servant,” just like Christ. This is what real and true Discipleship is all about. To “obey” means to “listen” (Lat., obedire), to be open to anything that God might ask you to do to build up the Body of Christ. It means submitting and consecrating your will to Jesus Christ. To be “humble” means to live with a spirit of deference, putting your gifts and talents at the disposal of others, rather than vying for privileges and recognition. So when Jesus chose to identify Himself with a young child as an example of what He meant by “servant,” it was a radical break with cultural expectations. Children had no legal status, no honor, and no rights whatsoever. The message was clear: if you want to be a Disciple of Jesus, and agree to Jesus’ life of obedience and humility, then you will be risking – even anticipating – being ignored, reviled, and maybe even attacked (1st Rdg: Wis 2:12,17-20). But with Jesus as a role model, what else could you expect? No one is greater than his Master. (Deacon).

God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death and carries us to eternal life!

This is an amazing true story, about the mother of a 10-day old baby who one day heard an explosion. The mother ran into the bedroom, but the baby wasn’t there. She was puzzled to see the window open—it was a very cold night—but before she could make the connection between the empty crib and the open window, a fire engulfed the bedroom and the mother rushed out of the house with the other children. The baby was never found; and the investigators eventually concluded that the fire consumed the baby. But the mother never believed it. Six years later, the mother happened to be attending a birthday party. There she met a bright-eyed, energetic six-year-old girl who looked very much like her own children; and she began to feel that this child might be her daughter. So, pretending the little girl had gum in her hair, she pulled a few strands of hair and then contacted the police. The police lab tested the hair samples and found that the girl’s DNA matched the mother’s. The little girl was indeed her daughter had been kidnapped six years before, and that the kidnapper had set fire to the bedroom to distract from the abduction.

Now the point of this bizarre yet true story is simple Evil and suffering mysteriously befall the innocent family –- all of a sudden, the baby disappears, but the mother never gives up on finding her child. And despite all kinds of disappointments and discouragements, she continues to hope. And almost miraculously she finds her daughter six years later. In a similar way, God loves us and never gives up on us –- in the midst of evil and suffering, problems and difficulties, failures and disappointments, threats and fear to the point of death. When we are lost to God or wander away, God relentlessly pursues us, and God pursues us until God catches up with us and leads all of us to our ultimate destiny. So, with great Faith and Hope in God we proclaim, “God upholds our life in moments of suffering and death and carries us to eternal life!” (Fr. Lakra).

To such as these

It was a hard but heroic task for Catholics in Elizabethan England to keep up the practice of their Faith. By law, everybody was supposed to belong to the Anglican State Church. Therefore, the only solution for Catholics was to have priests go around in disguise from place to place, offering Mass in private homes at no small risk. The English Catholics did receive spiritual rewards for their spiritual daring. Jesuit Father William Weston, one of the courageous English missionaries, tells the story of a fascinating thing that occurred at a Mass celebrated in a secret “Mass-house” by his fellow Jesuit Father Leonard Hyde. Father Weston got the account from Father Hyde himself. This Mass was offered around the end of 1685. Among the householders and Catholic friends who attended, with great devotion, there was a small child. The child, evidently a boy, watched wide-eyed all that was going on at the altar and among the participants. At the end of Mass, he went up and tugged his mother’s skirt. “Mother, Mother” he said. “What’s the matter, child?” the mother asked him. “Didn’t you see? Didn’t you see?” “See what?” she replied. “That wonderful little baby! It was so beautiful … like nothing you have ever seen before. Uncle priest put it in Father’s mouth. Father took it, and it disappeared. Oh, what a pity!” He kept repeating “Oh, what a pity! ” It was clear that he was deeply moved, and most sad to have the beautiful infant that he saw in the consecrated host disappear.

When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the little children from clustering about him, they were doubtless trying to spare Him annoyance. But what He saw in the little ones was mankind at its most innocent. Only if grownups retained or recovered this innocence of eye, could they hope to look on God face-to-face! “It is to such as these,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “that the kingdom of God belongs.” One day in 1685 He lifted the veil of eternity for a moment to prove His point. (Father Robert F. McNamara).

25th Sunday of Year B

We must become great through humble, self-giving service.

Greatness, in Jesus’ view, is found in our willingness to accept, welcome and serve those who are considered unacceptable by reason of class, color, religion, wealth, or culture.   We must welcome people the way a child welcomes them before he is taught discrimination.   If we are to be truly great, we must be ready to accept four challenges: (1) to put ourselves last, (2) to be the servant of all, (3) to receive the most insignificant human beings with love, and (4) to expect nothing in return.  During the holy Mass let us pray for the true spirit of service, for an attitude of love for those around us.  May the Holy Spirit help us to become truly great through humble, selfless service. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) puts it like this: “Be the living expression of God’s kindness through humble service; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile and kindness in your warm greeting.” Here is the motto of the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa:

The fruit of Silence is Prayer.
The fruit of Prayer is Faith.
The fruit of Faith is Love.
The fruit of Love is Service.
And the fruit of Service is Peace.

We need to practice humility in thoughts, words and actions.

“Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” “What is the essential thing in the religion and discipline of Jesus Christ?” St. Augustine asks, and then responds, “I shall reply: first humility, second humility and third humility.” We should not seek recognition and recompense for the service we do for Christ and the Church as parents, teachers, pastors, etc. Trusting Faith resulting from true humility is essential for all corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Since children reflect the innocence, purity, simplicity, and tenderness of our Lord, and since they are given the protection of a guardian angel, we are to love them, train them and take care not to give scandal to them. We need to try to treat everyone with love and respect because, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life,” (St. Basil) CCC # 336.


JOKES OF THE WEEK:

# 1: Remember potato salad and jokes: Tony Campolo, used to say, “If you ever start to feel proud, thinking that you are somebody great, just remember that soon after your body has been lowered into the grave, your family and friends will be eating potato salad and telling jokes, and you’ll be history.”

# 2: More My Size! George Washington Carver, the scientist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut: “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for Me alone.’ So, I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And He told me.”

# 3: A horrible mistake: Father, I have a besetting sin, and I want your help. I come to Church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation. I know I ought not think that, but I can’t help it. I want you to help me with it.” The pastor replied, “Mary, don’t worry about it. In your case it’s not a sin. It’s just a horrible mistake.”

#4: Prime minister’s humility: Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big.”

#5: I am proud of my humility: Do you have humility like the man who wrote the best-selling books, Humility and Humility and How I Attained It and The Ten Most Humble Men in the World and How I Chose the Other Nine?

# 6: Remember this old Sunday school song containing the basic servant-living theology: J.O.Y., J.O. Y. Tell you what it means: Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.

# 7: The humble pastor: Did you hear about the pastor who prepared a great message on humility. But he was waiting for a bigger congregation to preach the sermon to! Another pastor was given an award for humility. A week later, the congregation took the award back because the pastor displayed it in his office!

25th Sunday of Year B

Become great in the sight of God by doing God’s will as Jesus did, surrendering our lives to Him in the service of others.

Scripture lessons summarized: The passage from the Book of Wisdom sounds like a messianic prophecy like the “Suffering Servant” prophecy in Isaiah referring to Christ’s passion. It urges us to choose the path of righteousness despite painful consequences. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 54), the psalmist prays for help against the insolent people who rise against the upright.

The second reading is in tune with the dispute among the apostles about who is the greatest. In it, James warns us that selfish ambitions destroy peace and cause conflicts and war. So, James advises us to choose the path of righteousness and humble service which leads to lasting peace.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what walking that path of righteousness mentioned in the first and second readings is, namely, welcoming and serving the vulnerable in our midst: the defenseless children, the despairing poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized. Jesus also teaches his apostles that child-like humility and selfless service make one great in the eyes of God.

FIRST READING

First Reading

The Book of Wisdom was written around 100 BC for “the Diaspora,” — the Jews living in pagan cities such as   the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria. Today’s passage is a messianic prophecy of Jesus’ fate at the hands of Jesus’ own people, presenting Jesus as a “Suffering servant.” Referring to a righteous sufferer, the passage points to Jesus’ crucifixion and tells us how the world often ill-treats those who strive to live justly and do God’s will.   Bible scholars consider this as a reference to a conflict that was developing among the Jews living in Alexandria.  The conflict was between those who were trying to keep their Faith pure, and those who were adopting pagan Greek customs.

SECOND READING

Second Reading

James is emphatic about the contrast between spiritual wisdom and earthly wisdom. The apostle states that conflicts and disputes come from our inordinate desires, worldly cravings and selfish ambition.  It is precisely this kind of conflict that appears in the Gospel when the apostles argue about who will be highest in the Kingdom of God. James contrasts this kind of jealousy and selfishness with the wisdom from above that produces a harvest of righteousness.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading

The context: Jesus was returning to Capernaum after journeying incognito through the Northern Province of Galilee, avoiding crowds and teaching the apostles. Mark presents Jesus as giving three predictions about His coming suffering and death in chapters, 8, 9 and 10.   The response by Jesus’ disciples is a disappointment, because they were dreaming of a political messiah who would usher in an earthly kingdom.  In chapter 8, Peter rebukes Jesus for speaking so.   In chapter 9, (the first part of today’s text), an argument arises among the disciples as to who among them is the greatest.   In the third passage (chapter 10), James and John foolishly ask Jesus to give them seats on his right and left, when Jesus comes to power.  “The grumbling of the other ten disciples at the request of James and John surely implies that they have shared the same hopes of authority and privilege as have the sons of Zebedee.” (Carl W. Conrad; http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/Mark/mk8tr.html). The second part of today’s Gospel describes what happens when Jesus returns to Peter’s house in Capernaum and explains to the apostles what true greatness is.

The Christian criterion of greatness: Jesus says that people who serve humbly are the greatest. He uses a play on an Aramaic word that can mean either servant or child.  Presenting a child before them, Jesus explains that one who wishes to be the first among them must be a servant to all.  True greatness consists in serving one’s fellow men and is never self-centered.  It lies in the ability to see and respond to the needs of others, and it presupposes compassion and sympathy. The two conditions of true greatness are humility and service. This vocation to service belongs to the Church as a whole and to every member of the Church individually.    In other words, the Christian vocation is an apostolate of bearing witness to Christ through loving, humble service.  Christian history teaches us that whenever the members of Christ’s Church have forgotten or ignored this call to service, the Church has suffered. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, gives us this motto on service: “Do all the good you can; By all the means you can; In all the ways you can; In all the places you can; At all the times you can; To all the people you can; As long as ever you can.”

The paradox of the first becoming the last: Here, Jesus stands conventional wisdom on its head:  the truly great person is a diakonos − a deacon − a servant − a person who spends his/her day taking care of other people! What does it mean when Jesus states that those who want to be the first must be the last? Probably, Jesus is speaking of His own life and death in this spirit of His being a servant and considered the last, the loser. Jesus wants the apostles to substitute their ambition to rule thus becoming the first, with the ambition to serve, thus becoming the last. We are all supposed to be serving, whatever our position or role in the society or family or in the Church may be, because true greatness lies in being like Jesus, the servant or slave of all.

Welcoming children. “It may appear that Jesus’ teaching about innocence and welcoming the insignificant (vv. 33-37) is out of place in the context of His passion prediction (vv. 30-32). However, the prediction of his coming death was actually elucidated by Jesus’ lesson regarding the child and vice versa. Talya or child in Aramaic can also mean servant. To behave as a talya (servant) and to welcome even someone as insignificant (according to the standards of that time) as a talya (child) is to learn the reason for the cross (vv. 31-32) and its lesson of discipleship” (Sánchez files). In Greek also, the usual term for “children” [παις, pais] is the same term generally used for “slaves,” and vice-versa. By this play on words, it seems clear that, as much as Jesus is counseling His followers to welcome children in His name, Mark is also asking the Christian community to welcome “servants [of the Gospel],” in the same way that they would welcome Jesus. (Dr. Watson). By setting a child before them, Jesus asks them to be like the child, suggesting the importance of   innocence and humility. The trusting innocence of a child’s heart is the place where believers can meet both Christ and God. Besides, a child represents the most powerless member of any society, a person who has no power, no influence; a person who can be controlled, abused, or neglected by others.  By introducing the example of a child, Jesus also shows us that, when serving others, we must be careful to serve the least important.   This means that the Christian must show hospitality to those who have no social status: the outcast, the sinner, the sick and the feeble.  In other words, the Christian must serve all of God’s children, regardless of whether they are friends or foes. Why? Because such people represent Jesus in our midst and hence they must be welcomed, respected and helped. The passage also tells us that Christians must care for the unwanted, neglected, abused and ignored.

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