A LEADER IS A SERVANT
(A biblical refection on THE 25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 23 September, 2018)
Gospel Reading: Mark 9:30-37
First Reading: Wisdom 2:12,17-20; Psalms: Psalm 54:3-6,8; Second Reading: James 3:16-4:3
The Scripture Text
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And He would not have any one know it; for He was teaching His disciples, saying to them. “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask Him.
And they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house He asked them,
What were you discussing on the way?” But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest. And He sat down and called the twelve; and He said to them, “If any one would be first, He must be last of all and servant of all.” And He took a child, and put Him in the midst of them; and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)
The Old Testament, in some instances, uses the term “Son of Man” as a title for the Messiah (Savior). We find one such example in the book of Daniel, where the author writes about four powerful but cruel rulers who attempt to conquer the world. In the Jewish mind, these rulers are so ruthless that the author pictures them as four fear-inspiring and hideous beasts (e.g. a leopard with four heads, a beast with ten horns, etc.) After the fourth beast rules, God sends the Son of Man that instills fear but rather like a human being, with justice and compassion.
The apostles also have the picture of a Messiah who will be victorious. Therefore, they do not understand what Jesus means when He tells them in today’s Gospel that the Son of Man will be handed over to His enemies and be put to death. That simply was not supposed to happen.
Believing Jesus is the Messiah, the apostles think of themselves as generals in His army who will share in His victories and be highly respected by the Jewish people. Feeling important, they begin to argue about which one of them ranks the highest. Overhearing their discussion, Jesus tells them that if they want to be great, they have to become lowly servants and must even welcome children for His sake.
Palestine was a dry and dusty land where people wore sandals on their feet. The master of the house usually welcomed his guests by washing their feet himself or by instructing a servant to do it. The more insignificant the guest, the more humiliating this task was. Washing the feet of a rabbi or prominent politician was not as degrading as washing the feet of a fisherman or a shepherd. Since children were on the bottom rung of the social ladder, welcoming a child (washing the child’s feet) was the lowliest of jobs, a very humbling task. This is the type of humility, a humility that compels a person to serve the poorest of the poor and the least significant of society, that should distinguish Jesus’ followers.
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 206-207.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, by Your Holy Spirit, make me a more humble person. Make my heart like Yours. Mold it so that I might find joy in serving others, just as You take great joy in caring for me. Amen.
Jakarta, 22 September 2018
A Christian Pilgrim