|by Angela Lambert|
September 20th, 2015; Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 9:30-37 NAB
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
This week, a student of mine asked me why a woman cannot be the pope. This question, and its underlying one – why a woman can’t be a priest, gets asked every year. I myself wrestled with this question when I was in college. I’m glad I pursued the answered because there are beautiful theological reasons. Oftentimes however, what we are really asking is why a woman can’t hold what seems to be the highest and most powerful position in the Church. This seems sexist, unfair, and therefore not Christ-like. The apostles in today’s passage viewed leadership in Christ’s kingdom in a similar way. They were arguing along the way about who would have the highest position, the most power and prestige. If Christ’s kingdom resembled worldly kingdoms that would have been an appropriate question. Jesus corrects them in a pointed way. As God says in Isaiah 55:8 “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” Jesus had just taught the apostles that the Son of Man, the Messiah, would have to suffer and be killed. Rather than considering that they might be called to follow in His footsteps they wonder who will take leadership afterward. Jesus clarifies what He means by His kingdom. His words would have been surprising to the apostles and they are still surprising to us today.
It’s hard to truly believe Jesus when He teaches that “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” We would rather believe that discipleship means visible worldly greatness. The world looks at the papacy and sees position and power. However, beginning with Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century, the title the pope has used for himself has been “the servant of the servants of God.” Discipleship of Christ means following the path of humility and self-sacrifice, the same path Christ took. What can be more humble and self-sacrificing than caring for a small child, especially if you are its mother or father. This path of humility is open to all with equal opportunity. Some might even say that women have an unequal and greater opportunity since we alone have the ability to carry in our wombs new life at its most vulnerable stage.
Every Christian can become a saint if he or she cooperates with the grace of Christ. The Second Vatican Council used the phrase “the universal call to holiness” to describe the doctrine that God desires everyone to have perfect union with Him. The opportunity is equal, it’s or response which is unequal. Teresa of Avila said that what prevents individuals from experiencing greater depths of prayer and union with God is a lack of generosity, courage, and humility.
I wasn’t asked by Christ to be pope, but I was asked to be a mother and a teacher. In the world’s eyes there is nothing notable about my position except that I maybe “wasted” some of my talents or opportunities for wealth and power. My eyes are on a different prize though. I don’t want to be the one in power, I want to be His disciple. All I ask is that He say to me one day, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” I may not be the servant of the servants of God, but I accept being the servant of those He “put His arm around” and placed in my care.
- Who has God placed in your care? How has this made you grow in humility?
- When do you feel tempted by worldly prestige?
- Consider how you prioritize your life. How might Christ re-order your priorities? Ask for His help and grace.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Write out your priorities – look at where you spend your time and money. Pray about it each day this week and ask Christ to show you where you are doing well and where you need to change.
- Pope Francis is visiting the U.S. this week for the world meeting of families. Read one of his speeches or homilies while he is here. Consider how he shares Christ’s values as it pertains to family and discipleship. [A couple of my favorite sources: vatican.va (vatican website) and zenit.org (Catholic news agency)]
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
|* These Sunday meditations are intended to engage the heart and imagination in prayer and include a practical application (resolutions) to your daily life. In our presentation on prayer I offer a more detailed discussion of ways to pray with Scripture that can take 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour and vary in depth depending on your time-frame and prayer goals.|