25th Sunday Of Ordinary Time
This Sunday is the 25th Sunday Of Ordinary Time and we are now back into the daily routine of school or work with the various clubs etc restarting after the Summer. Almost four weeks have already gone by as we head towards the Autumn or the Fall as it is called in the USA. Time waits for no one and as I often say it certainly isn’t waiting on me and I certainly don’t want time to stand still for me permanently even though on some occasions is wish it would stop for a while to savour the particular things that I am doing that have brought me happiness.
Each week when we gather together as the family of god in the church and we renew our commitment to being disciples: followers of the Christ following the way of the Lord on our pilgrimage through life. As a pilgrim people we have been listening to Mark during this year as he reminds us of the demands of discipleship. Today Mark reminds us as disciples that the core of the mystery we celebrate is that Jesus, the Son of Man was arrested, put to death, and rose again. This is the mystery of faith. But we also hear him warning us about how we can be distracted in our discipleship: instead of seeing this community as the group which must model the way God’s people should live, it can all too easily degenerate into being a group where people argue and compete for honours and position. We as disciples have to be focused on the Lord and recognise how often we fail as disciples.
Last Sunday we had the first prediction of the passion in the Gospel and today we come to the second time in Mark when Jesus speaks about what awaits him in Jerusalem. However, we are invited to see in these readings an attempt by Jesus to persuade his disciples that they need to change their attitude towards him and his ministry, and I would hope that in these reading we would be persuaded to change our way as well. It is clear that the disciples are happy to be with Jesus as their long awaited and triumphant Messiah but they are failing completely in that Jesus is not interested such discipleship. He wants them and by association he wants us to learn the way of the kingdom which is the way of the cross. This is not the path to glory as human beings understand it but the path of humble service and love.
To emphasize Jesus’ vision of leadership, he gives us the example of serving a child, children were the least important people in ancient cultures; children had the status of slaves. People had children to serve them and provide financial security in their elderly years. And they had many children, because the morality rate for children under 16 years of age was 50 percent. Childhood was precarious time in the ancient world. Reflecting this outlook, St. Thomas Aquinas once answered the question, “If there was a fire, whom should I rescue first?” Thomas listed in the order of importance: one’s parents first, one’s spouse second; one’s children last of all. Children were the least important. Serving one such as a child really showed true leadership for they served the ignored and the helpless.
To serve someone as lowly as a child took an act of extreme humility. But who was the “child” of which Jesus spoke? Who was the Christian to serve? In one respect, the Christian was to show hospitality those who had the social status of the child: the outcast, the sinner, the sick and feeble. In another respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to all of God’s children, regardless if they were friend or foe. In a third respect, the Christian was to show hospitality to those who had become the “children” of the community, the Christian missionary who risked life and limb to spread the Good News. Obviously it took wisdom to discern how one would serve these different groups. But Jesus made one thing clear. Leadership meant serving all. It meant esteeming the least important.
We all have the opportunity and the responsibility to exercise leadership in our lives. But, as the gospel points out, leadership means service. It means setting aside our selfish desires to care for others’ needs and to show them respect.