Our Search for Greatness and Descent to Humility

This week I want to just give some of my thoughts on the gospel of Mark. They are my thoughts and so they aren’t all going to be right and if you want to chime in on something I say feel free, just leave a comment.

Glory to you Oh Lord,

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.

The passage above is the Gospel reading today about Jesus walking with the Twelve (The Apostles) to Capernaum. As the walked Jesus tells the Twelve about his “prediction” of his death for a second time. Yet upon hearing this for a second time they still didn’t seem to understand what Jesus was telling them yet Mark includes the fact that they were afraid to ask Jesus what he meant. I believe that is to show that maybe the Twelve did have at least some understanding of what Jesus was preaching to them and just didn’t want to believe it to be true. The news strikes great fear into the disciples and leads them to argue amongst themselves about who is the “greatest” of them. The “greatest” in my opinion mean who is the best Christian. (Although at this time there was no existence of Christianity. So I guess you could say they were arguing over who was the holiest.) They had turned their faith and religious life into a competition, something we see so much in today’s world with just about everything (work, sports, opinions, fame, popularity, and sometimes even our faith). I constantly find myself thinking “all I have to do is be better than this person,” or “I just need to make my work look better than theirs and I’ll get the better great.” It’s something that I constantly find myself falling into.

Jesus then sits the Twelve down (notice he does this rather than getting angry at them) and tells them, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark (9:35). I personally like this phrase from Matthew better, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16), but they both mean the same thing. This is Jesus’ test to the Twelve to humble themselves and our test as well. The example that Jesus uses for this situation is that of a child. At Mass today the pastor at the parish I attend explained the example this way, a child is fully dependent on their elders (parents), they need parents for food, shelter, love, education (all the basic necessities of life), but most importantly, and the key part to why Jesus used this example, is that children have no way to repay those who care for them and raise them.