A LIFE OF SERVICE THAT SEEKS ONLY THE GROWTH OF HIS KINGDOM
(A biblical reflection on the 25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 19 September 2021)
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)
Certainly we all need to mature in the world, yet at the same time Jesus exhorts us to become more childlike. In today’s reading, for instance, Jesus speaks of the blessings of receiving a child to His name. In other parts of Scripture He speaks of becoming like little children. Evidently, not only do children learn to be good Christians by our example, but we too can learn a lot by watching little children.
At the beginning of this passage, the apostles are discussing among themselves who among them was the greatest. Rather than acting childlike and innocent, they were self-seeking and childish, or playing a spiritual version of “king of the hill”.
The root of the apostles’ actions was pride, and the cure – as always – was humility. And Jesus showed the way to that humility by stating: “If any one would be first, He must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). The goal of the Christian life is not to seek the superior place among the prestigious, but to treasure the lowest place among the poor, the lonely, and the sick. It’s not a call to greatness, but to goodness, a summons to wash the feet of others in our concern and compassion for them.
In biblical Greek, the word for servant is diakonos, a word that is at the root of our English word deacon. In the New Testament, this word has different layers of meaning: from waiting a table to preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:2-4). Whatever the situation, Jesus often spoke of serving other people and linked this service to the love of God. He taught that whenever we serve other people, we are really serving Him (Matthew 25:40). Over and over again, Jesus stressed service over authority to the degree that in His eyes, anyone who had any authority in the Church had to be a servant, not a ruler (Luke 22:25-27).
God calls all of us to a life of service that seeks only the growth of His Kingdom. And the best part of this calling is that at every moment, He is with us, serving us through countless acts of love, encouragement, and mercy.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, 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, 18 September 2021
A Christian Pilgrim