Gospel Reflections

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 9:30-37

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Jane Dwyer

Published: September 23, 2018

Read Mark 9:30-37

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... Read More…

I pondered this reading for a long time without being able to put a thought on paper, trying to understand what is really behind and inside the text. Jesus departed with his disciples. He wanted to be alone with them. Jesus begins to speak about his death, that he the son of God will be thrown into the hands of the powerful,  suffering the death of a condemned man, a criminal. And after three days he will be resurrected. The disciples don´t comprehend what Jesus is saying and are afraid to ask for better understanding.   They arrive home in Capernaum and Jesus asks what they were discussing on the trip. The disciples are silent because they were arguing over who was the greatest among them.  Jesus sits and calls the apostles around him.  He begins to speak, saying that whoever wants to be the first must stand as the last making himself the  servant of all. And then Jesus places  a child in their midst saying that whoever receives one of these children in his name will be receiving him and also the one who sent him. In Mark 9: 28-29 the disciples suffer a defeat. They cannot heal a child possessed of a spirit. Jesus says that this cure is only with much prayer. And in Mark 9: 38-40 the disciples already want to forbid others to do what they could not do. Jesus welcomes and supports the healer that the disciples want to discredit.  How do we understand Jesus´ conversation and action in this text?  And what is the reason for the disciples´ silence?

I understand that Jesus departed with the disciples to be able to share the consequences of his life journey, his commitment to the Father's plan; to prepare them. Their silence indicates that the disciples were either unable or unwilling to comprehend what Jesus wanted to communicate; and that they were probably afraid to enter into such a conversation. Is this understandable?  Obviously, for Jesus seems to understand. He does not force the situation.

When they arrive at Capernaum, in the familiarity of the house, Jesus leaves aside his preoccupation with his own future and moves on to the subject of the disciples. He asks what they were discussing along the way. Again silence, but this time the text indicates that the reason for the silence seems to have been different. Discussing who was greater or insignificant had no place in Jesus´ world.  Jesus´ words must have haunted the disciples. To admit the contest for power in the face of this reality was to show their weakness and their inability to face what Jesus lived and what he called them to. Probably the disciples understood very little of Jesus´ conversation.  But they felt and intuited that their quarrel and discussion were not part of Jesus' mission, the Father's plan. 

But again, Jesus does not let himself be distracted with the weakness and lack of understanding of the apostles, and calls the twelve to talk. The subject is the kingdom of God, the journey, the WAY. Again Jesus does not delay in the weakness of the disciples. He moves on to learning. "If anyone wants to be first, he or she must be the last, be the one who serves all." The important point here is that we do not define or design how to be the last, nor how to be servant. This call offers itself in the life reality, on the journey. The size or importance of the act of serving is not a qualifier. Important is to serve. And to concretize his meaning, Jesus  offers the example of the most simple and natural of life´s actions: to welcome with love and tenderness,  a child.

This simple example of Jesus reminds me of something that happened here in Brazil, something that involved  Dom Helder Câmara, at that time Archbishop of Recife, Pernambuco.  Dom Helder recalled that during his illness a prostitute came to visit him. He welcomed her and they talked for a time like old friends. In the midst of the conversation, Dom Helder asked, "How is your faith, my child?" She replied without hesitation: "I have not been to Church much, but there is one thing I never cease to do. At Easter time, I go to prison and offer to spend the night with the most abandoned and lonely man in prison."

 Serving everyone is grace. Letting yourself be the last, the unobserved, the unimportant in your service is grace. No longer wanting to be the first, this is what grace is all about.




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