Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

jesus with child.jpg

 Mark 9: 30-37

If anyone wants to be first … "

The public ministry of Jesus now over, he and his disciples were on the way towards Jerusalem where he would suffer and die, and after three days rise again. But his warning about being put to death was beyond the comprehension of the disciples. They had just recently declared their belief that Jesus is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, and according to their idea of the Messiah he should be beyond any possibility of suffering and death. After all, the Messiah had been expected to inaugurate the reign of God's Kingdom with irresistible power! The disciples had yet to discover that his death on the cross would reveal the true identity of Jesus and the real nature both of the Messiah and of the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, still stuck to notions of a kingdom of power and status, they engaged in arguments about which of them was to be greatest. Although they were the closest disciples of Jesus, they were still caught up with the values of the world. Their concern was for position and power, for status and personal recognition. In contrast, the concern of Jesus was for the true reign of God, which turns the values of this world upside down: "If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all." Jesus turns the power game on its head. If the language of greatness is to be used at all among his disciples, it must be in relation to service not domination.

Jesus illustrates this by placing a child before them. Children in his day had no social or legal standing; they simply didn’t count – they were virtually non-persons. This child represents people who have nothing whatsoever to offer, the sort of people whose very existence is hardly recognised. And Jesus says to us: “Anyone who welcomes one of these welcomes me”. To welcome and respect the weak and the lowly, the insignificant, is to welcome and respect Jesus himself and God who sent him. And this, says Jesus, is the way to be first.