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.  

 

Following the Leader…Christian Discipleship and Leadership

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

 

August 27th, 2017; 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Gospel of Matthew 16:13-20 NAB

 Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Meditation Reflection:

Generally speaking, our culture loathes the word “authority.”  It appears to undermine our values of autonomy, self-expression, independence, and freedom.  Moreover, the idea of monarch-rule seems archaic and undemocratic.  In consequence, our cultural norms and assumptions can hinder our understanding and appreciation of the Kingdom of God.

God’s Chosen People became a kingdom under Saul, then famously David.  David’s authority however came from God.  He was chosen by God and anointed king by God’s prophet Samuel.  Moreover, David’s success as a leader corresponded with his fidelity to the Lord.

The Kingdom of Israel served as a glimpse, or foreshadowing of the Kingdom Jesus would establish.  Thus, Jesus acted as the New David.  However, instead of assigning authority to protect the physical security of His people, lands, and finances, He assigned authority to leaders He wished to protect the souls of His people, the Truth He came to reveal, and the path He opened for our salvation.

The Pope, like David, is a human being.  This means he will falter at times, sin, and struggle with human limitations.  We must be careful however, not to project our cultural norm on our understanding of his role.  Our leaders our voted upon to represent our views.  They operate at a natural human level, with the responsibility to protect our physical security, rights, lands, and commerce.  The Pope’s position, begun with Peter, has a different role.  Christ chose Peter.  Christ bestowed His authority upon Peter to be Christ’s representative, not the representative of popular opinion.  Lastly, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter supernaturally to identify correctly the truth about Christ, which could only be known by a supernatural grace.  The Pope is called to shepherd people on the way to salvation.  This resembles a family structure more so than a political one.

I am grateful to God to live in our democracy.  In my opinion, despite its flaws, it’s still the best, and most free, country in the world.  Nevertheless, I don’t run my family like a democracy.  If decisions were made by vote we would eat doughnuts every morning, live way outside our means, and discipline would devolve to mob rule.  Much to my children’s chagrin, our family is run as a monarchy.  Though they push against the rules, we have much more peace, justice, and love as a result.  In this monarchy, God is our king, and my husband and I are His stewards.

At times, my kids have accused me of being either overly strict or overly protective when I said no to something they wanted to do.  To encourage me to soften, they would make life difficult for me, then add “no one really cares Mom, it’s not that big of a deal.”  Even though I felt for them, and in a secular culture what they said was true, I also knew I had to hold the line because, at the end of the day, I would be held responsible before God.  So, I often respond to them, “I have to do what’s right for you, because it’s my responsibility and I will have to face God one day.” And when I fail to hold the line, and am a weak parent, I ask God for forgiveness and the grace to be stronger.

So, contrary to our cultural norms and assumptions, I have seemingly Medieval parenting methods to my children.  Yet, as parents we all know that raising kids to be mature adults is different than running a nation-state.  Kids need us to exercise our authority, especially in decisions that they are too young to make. We are in a better position to discern what is safe from what is too risky, truth from lie, and wisdom from folly.  Of course, unlike Christ we are not all-knowing, so oftentimes we need the Holy Spirit to guide us in our position and enable us by His grace to make the right choices.

Discipleship means that Christ is our king.  We can embrace this monarchy because our king is also our loving, self-sacrificing, and divine Savior.  As king, He chose to bestow His authority upon some of His subjects to govern for Him on earth and promised to safeguard it until the end of the world.

Upon Peter, and every pope thereafter, He bestowed the authority to say who Christ is, and gave them the supernatural ability to be correct.  The role of pope is to preserve, protect, and promulgate the Deposit of Faith given by Christ.  In addition, when confusion over Christ’s revelation occurs, for the sake of unity someone must be the authority that determines which response is correct and which is false.  During the first councils of the early church the question of whether Jesus is God, Man, or both was a long, heated, argument.  If determined as a vote, our doctrine would be that of Arius’ interpretation – Jesus was only a man but the highest possible one.  The pope recognized Athanasius’ response as the true one – that Jesus is both God and man.

In the vocation of marriage, Jesus bestows His authority on mothers and fathers over their children.  Thus, as children we have an obligation to obey our parents.  And as parents, we have the responsibility of exercising our authority in a Christian manner.  It’s not always easy.  When kids are fighting I would rather just yell “stop bickering” (which is never really effective), than get up, intervene, and if necessary impose consequences for bad behavior.  Crafting Christian rules takes time and effort, both of which are in short supply.  Enforcing the rules with appropriate consequences means suffering the rebuffs and anger of resistant kids.  As kids get older, knowing what decision to make in given circumstances becomes even more difficult.  They require even more prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Nevertheless, we can find peace and confidence in our divine monarch, Jesus Christ.  He reigns in our souls with supernatural power and grace.  Despite our natural limitations, He transforms us into one Body, one family in God. His Holy Spirit guides us – enlightening our minds, strengthening our wills, and inflaming our hearts with love.  Our unity in Christ can be seen visibly in the family and in the Church. Our trust is not in ourselves, but in Him who enables us to complete the mission He entrusted to us.

Consider:                                                      

  • To what extent does Jesus reign in your heart and in your life?  When do you let Him lead, and when do you resist His commands?
  • Our culture tends to value being a leader over a follower.  How does this influence our discipleship?  Do we value being followers or wish only to lead?
  • In what ways has Christ appointed you His steward?  In your vocation – who has He entrusted to your care?  In your occupation – who or what has He entrusted to you and what fruit do you think He expects to see from it?  In His Creation – what does He ask of you for its care?
  • How do you respond to the authority of Christ’s vicar on earth, the pope?  Do you accept his guidance on matters of faith and morals or do you resist?  Is your faith strong enough to see not just the human, visible reality of the Church, but the divine, invisible reality as well? What has made this either easier or harder for you?
  • Consider the relationship between authority and unity.  How are the two related and necessary?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Each morning, look ahead at the day.  Invite Christ to lead you in each aspect, and for the grace to follow.  Even if you are called to lead others, let Christ lead you first.
    • Examples:
    • If you make a to-do list at work or home, prayerfully consider first how Christ would prioritize the items rather than how you want to prioritize them.
    • What expectations would Christ want to see in your family? Are there any that need greater implementation?
    • What expectations does Christ have for you at work? Do you honor Him by respectful, honest, and edifying language, free from vulgarity or slander?  Do you honor Him in action through diligence in your work and mercy towards your co-workers?
  • Pray the Suscipe prayer by St. Ignatius or the Serenity Prayer.  Click here for a copy of both: serenity-and-suscipe-prayers

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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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.