Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 20 in Ordinary Time

& archive, Year B.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led by your Pentecost Spirit.

Amen

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 20 in Ordinary Time

As we enter the gospel narrative in Mark 9:30-37 this week, we join the disciples and other followers of Jesus they begin the walk south into Galilee and towards Capernaum.

Once again Jesus speaks of his betrayal, death, and resurrection. But these gospel companions still do not understand, and are afraid to ask him. His talk about suffering and death is outside the circle of their reality, and hence they cannot receive or believe it. In their mind and soul, Jesus is to be the triumphant Messiah who will restore the nation of Israel to its God-given place. How can he talk about death?

As they walk the disciples turn their conversation to a discussion about who among them will get the most important places in the new order of the Messiah. Soon their conversation becomes heated and turns into an argument as each strives for a place of honor and power. After their arrival at Peter’s house Jesus asks them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” These followers make no response, and a heavy silence hangs in the room. Jesus sits down, and speaks into the strained atmosphere, gently inviting one of the little children playing nearby in the house to come to him. He takes the infant up in his arms, looks around at our gospel companions and says:

Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and the servant of all.
Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me. . . .

Matthew also remembers Jesus’ response:

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. (Matthew 18:1-7)

Greatness in the kingdom of God is found in serving one another. Here the meaning we attach to such words as power and greatness is shaken out its place in our thinking and our doing. The worth of children–these humble, receptive and little ones among us — is lifted up before our gaze, along with the wonder of God’s presence within the child, each child. Children are believers; their hearts are open to wonder, to God, to Jesus. Jesus makes a grave warning concerning any one who causes a child to doubt, to be unable to believe in God. This is not a minor frustration Jesus is speaking of, but a holy rage against anyone who traps and blocks a child’s mind and trust, and so robs them of their created freedom and presence for God.
The “little ones who believe in me” are children, just like the child Jesus holds in his arms. However he is gathering more than these into his meaning. These disciples are also “little ones”, learning faith, learning the ways of the kingdom of heaven. When these followers of Jesus turn against each other, belittling one another in an attempt to prove another’s superiority and greatness, they are allowing their human lust for power to move into center place. The patient, and discerning work of Jesus in helping them to know and to name their inward journey and outward calling is then forgotten, and trampled underfoot. Jesus directs their attention to the way of the kingdom: to serve each other–to be present, receptive, and helpful in their journey of becoming who God is calling them to be. This is greatness.

Prayer before reading:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
To your patient work of helping me hear
With the ears of my heart.
Lead me in your Way.

Amen

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 20 in Ordinary Time

9/17 Monday: Mark 9:30-32
9/18 Tuesday: Mark 9:33-37
9/19 Wednesday: Psalm 1
9/20 Thursday: Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22
9/21 Friday: James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
9/22 Saturday: Mark 9:30-32
9/23 Sunday: Mark 8:33-37