Year B: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Mark 9: 30-37
There is a gap between last week’s Gospel and this week’s which means that to set the passage in context, it might be useful to read all of Chapter 9 - or, at least, bear in mind that the events in today’s Gospel follow close on the heels of the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration manifested the glory that was in Jesus and those who witnessed it wanted to hold onto that experience. However, Jesus knows that this would be a mistake: he is destined to be revealed in all his glory but before that, he has to face suffering and death. So, he reminds his disciples again that the mystery of his death and resurrection lies ahead - but, as before, they fail to understand what this means.
For them, greatness means reputation and status and they feel that, in following Jesus, they are going to get both. They are trying to impose human judgements on their discipleship - and trying to work out where in the pecking order each is to stand. We can imagine the discussion, perhaps, one claiming a higher ranking because they control the group’s finances - another claiming that, as Jesus took them to one side to witness the Transfiguration, they must be more important - still others working out how much they have given up to follow Jesus and how this must raise their status.
Aware that this division had to be addressed and true discipleship understood, Jesus calls one of the children gathered in the house and, in front of the Twelve grown men full of self importance and announces that it is not in greatness that he is found but in such simplicity and child-like trust. The greatness of the Christian is not be found in superiority - but, in fact, inferiority: those who are last and those who are least rank most highly in the Kingdom.
It is not an easy lesson for the disciples. However, in one detail of today’s Gospel, we catch a glimpse of the reward that awaits those who cherish simplicity of life and whose lives seem insignificant in the eyes of the world. In setting the child before the disciples as an example, Jesus also puts his arms around it - holding it close - and honouring it. For a time, as he predicted, his arms will be held fast - but in that dying, his arms become open to all who yearn for love and those for whom the arms of Jesus rank higher than any earthly throne.
What does it mean for me?
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