25th Sunday Ordinary Time
September 23, 2018
There is something about most men and women that makes us want to “get ahead”, to improve our position in life or to make wise investments that will pay off for us down the line. It’s really amazing just how often we find Christ giving out this kind of advice. In fact, Jesus goes out of his way to let us know exactly how to get to the top of the pack in the kingdom of God.
The gospel for this Sunday (Mark 9:30-37) finds the disciples engaged in a very human argument: who is first in the “pecking order”! Apparently, they were having quite a lively discussion until Jesus interrupted. All he asked was “What were you just discussing?” This brought an immediate end to the conversation, because what the disciples were just talking about was so awful and embarrassing.
As usual, Jesus is very challenging. In a way, he appeals to our human nature: how to get ahead. But the way to get ahead for Jesus goes against our basic instincts. He says: “So, you want to get ahead in my kingdom? Here’s how to get noticed by me: serve everyone else; strive not to be noticed; don’t seek applause and recognition; be happy to be the least important in the group.”
Once in a previous parish the pastoral council decided we ought to try putting four large flower pots in front of the church. Seemed like a simple, non-controversial idea at the time. As it turned out, at every step there were people who wanted their way or the highway. The first big argument was over what style of pot to buy. Then what size to buy. Then 6 people went to pick out the plants (a mistake!) and ended up at odds with each other over what to put in the pots (each person picked out 1 plant and NO ONE was happy). More clashes ensued over where to place the pots. Finally, more arguments ensued over the watering schedule. Now, they are no longer used at all.
Do you have the heart of a servant? How often are you willing to give way to someone else’s choice? Do you get all bent out of shape if your effort, whatever it is, is overlooked? The Lord will give us many opportunities to practice this gospel. He really does want us to get ahead in the next life by growing in humility in this one.