Making a point or making a difference? Tuesday, 7th Week in ordinary time – Mk 9:30-37
Jesus has ended his Galilean ministry. He has begun his journey south to Jerusalem and his journey takes him via Capernaum, the home of Peter which Jesus had made his headquarters during his Galilean ministry.
For Jesus this was an opportunity to instruct the disciples about his impending death and resurrection. He has already done so in chapter eight but starting with Peter they seem to find it hard to swallow such a teaching and Jesus has to reprimand Peter and disciples for “they have set their minds on human things and not divine” (8:33) and so for the second time he attempts to teach them.
There are three passion predictions in the gospel of Mark. The first one was in 8:31, today we hear the second and the next will be found in 10:33. With a slight change in words the prediction is the same’ the son of man will be betrayed, killed and three days later rise again. But the passion predictions are also followed by a teaching on discipleship. (See 8:34, 9:35 and 10:43).
Today’s teaching is set in the context of the disciple’s inability to comprehend the kind of leadership exemplified by the very manner of life that Jesus lived; Jesus is a servant leader and serving leader. We are told that when they settled in Capernaum, presumably in Peter’s house, Jesus confronts them about what they were discussing on the way. He knew that once again their minds had been set on earthly things (as do ours) and this time it was about power.
The disciples were arguing as to which of them were the greatest? Was this perhaps because Peter was able to acclaim that Jesus was the Messiah thus placing the eleven in his shadow? Or was it that Jesus chose Peter James and John to go up the mount of transfiguration while the remaining eleven struggled to heal a boy with a spirit (9:14-29) setting them in poor light? We will never know the answer for sure but this we know from our own experience, that the lust for power is innate in each of us.
So Jesus sets the record straight and this time he takes the help of a little child to make his point. The kind of leadership that Jesus wishes for his disciples to have is one that does not seek to be at the centre of everything. For Jesus, ‘the child was not so much a symbol of innocence or humility as someone without legal status and therefore helpless.’ (JBC)
Jesus teaches his disciples that as a leader one uses power for goodness sake. Receiving one such as a child, is to receive any insignificant person as if they were the most powerful or influential person on this planet. True leadership seeks not merely to make ‘a point’ about being inclusive and accepting of all but one that makes ‘a difference’ by practicing it.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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