Two attitudes that are very much Jesus’
Jesus’ group crosses Galilee on the way to Jerusalem. They do it quietly, without anyone knowing it. Jesus wants to dedicate himself completely to instructing his disciples. It is very important what he wants etched on their hearts: his journey is not a journey of glory, success and power. It is the opposite: it leads to crucifixion and rejection, though it will end up in resurrection.
The disciples cannot get into their heads what Jesus is telling them. They are afraid even to ask him. They do not want to think about the crucifixion. It is not part of either their plans or expectations. While Jesus talks to them about being handed over and about the cross, they talk about their ambitions: Who will be the most important person in the group? Who will occupy the highest position? Who will receive more honors?
Jesus sits down. He wants to teach them something that they must never forget. He calls the Twelve, those who are most closely associated to his mission, and he invites them to come close, for he sees them to be very far apart from him. In order to follow his footsteps and be like him, they need to learn two fundamental attitudes.
- First attitude: If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Jesus’ disciples have to renounce ambitions, ranks, honors and vanities. In his group no one should strive to be over the rest. On the contrary, one should occupy the last place, put oneself on the level of those who do not have power or show any rank, and be, from there, like Jesus, the servant of all.
- The second attitude is so important that Jesus illustrates it with a tender symbolic gesture. He places a child in the midst of the Twelve, in the center of the group, so that those ambitious men may forget all about honor and greatness, and turn their eyes to the little ones, the weak, those most in need of defense and care. He then embraces the child and tells them: Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me. Whoever welcomes a “little one” is welcoming the one who is the “greatest,” Jesus. And whoever receives Jesus, is receiving the Father who sent him.
A Church that welcomes the little ones and the defenseless is learning to welcome God. A Church that looks toward those who are great and associates with the powerful of the earth is perverting the Good News of God announced by Jesus.
September 20, 2015
25 Ordinary Time (B)
Mark 9, 30-37