To Serve is to Reign…Gospel Meditation for Mark 9:30-37

by Angela Jendro

pope-francis-hugging-disabled-childpope-selfie

25th  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.”

Meditation Reflection:

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 and opportunities that I could have used for wealth and power instead. My eyes are on a different prize though. I don’t want to be the one in power, I want to be Jesus’ 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.

Consider:

  • 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 visited the U.S. for the world meeting of families. Read one of his speeches or homilies from when he was 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) Jendro © 2015; updated  © 2018

* 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.  

 

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Communication and Relationships

Reflection by Angela Jendro

Jesus heals two blind men, an apostle behind him. Mosaic (6th)

September 9th, 2018; 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 7:31-37 NAB

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, to the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” — And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Meditation Reflection:

People brought to Him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged Him to lay His hand on him.”  To have begged Christ, they must have loved the man dearly.  Begging implies a kind of poverty and desperation.  It can be hard enough to ask for help sometimes, but to beg can seem too humiliating to do.  Jesus responds with such personal attention and care that it seems He too shares their concern that the man’s speech and hearing be restored.

This passage underscores the centrality of our relational nature – both our relationship with others and with God.  Relationship depends upon communication.  Clearly the people in this passage had communicated their love to the man through their actions and their expressions.  However, they begged Christ to remove the barrier of deafness and the speech impediment so that they might share words with the man and receive them in return.

Truthful words can communicate our inner thoughts and feelings, a sharing of ourselves that can only be known if we choose to share it with others.  Christ healed the man by restoring his ability to communicate and therefore enabling him to enjoy more freedom to relate to those he loved.  Jesus went even further by connecting the man to God Himself.  He took the man aside, physically touched him, and opened his ears to hear and his tongue to speak – both bodily and spiritually.  Jesus, the Word of God, became man that we might have relationship with God.  We can only know God’s inner thoughts and feelings if He chooses to share them with us verbally.  Jesus is God’s incarnate communication.  He desires to restore all of us to relationship with Him and with others.  If we humble ourselves to beg Him to open our ears and free our tongues, He gives us hope in this passage that He will unite us at a deeper level than we can imagine to God and those we love.

If God is a dialogical unity, a being in relation, the highest creature made in his image and likeness reflects this constitution; thus he is called to fulfill himself in dialogue, in conversation, in encounter.” — Benedict XVI, Trinity Sunday, Genoa, May 18, 2008.

Consider:

  • Jesus healed the man by touching him and praying for him.  Consider the power of human touch, words, and prayer.
  • Do you struggle with either hearing God or with speaking to God? Do you offer general prayers or do you really communicate with the Lord?  How might you open yourself up to deeper communication with God?
  • Is there a person you struggle communicating with?  Why do you think that is?  How might you repair the relationship and soften the communications?
  • Consider the power of words to build up or break down a relationship.  When was a time that someone’s words made a significant and positive difference in your life?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Which Scripture passage do you love the most?  Write it down and post it where you will see it every day.
  • Read one psalm a day.  They are God’s words to you and beautiful words of prayer back to God.
  • If there is someone you struggle with, place the relationship before God and beg Him to bless it.
  • Intentionally think about the words you use each day this week.  Ask Christ for self-control to guard against harsh, critical words.  Ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with the right words to say to each person you meet in your day.

~ Written by Angela Lambert-Jendro © 2015