Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19th September

Mark 9:30–37

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

In St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus predicted three times about his suffering, death and resurrection. The first prediction took place immediately after his disciples professed their faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah. Today’s reading from the gospel is his second prediction. In between the two predictions, i.e. the first and the second time of his prophecy concerning his suffering and death, Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of the glory that would be his after the resurrection in the Transfiguration.

The placing of the Transfiguration in between of the first two predictions seems that Jesus would like to encourage the apostles through their leaders to bear the “scandal”, which was his passion and death that would soon take place in the near future. Though the apostles knew Jesus was the Messiah, they had no idea what did it mean. His arrest and death on the cross came to them as a shattering blow because they thought that Messiah was supposed to be the most glorious on earth and that Jesus, who was the Messiah, would use the mighty powers to defend himself against all enemies. Jesus had to educate them three times about the meaning of being the Messiah and to reinforce their faith in the Father’s salvation plan through him. The third prediction of his passion and death in Mark is given in 10:32-34.

According to an ancient Christian tradition, the Transfiguration took place in Mount Thabor. After the Transfiguration, Jesus and his disciples went through Galilee. He did not want the usual crowds to know of his prophecy because he wanted his disciples to be the first witnesses so that with their faith in his resurrection they would become his witnesses to lead the people.

However, even his disciples at this time could not understand what Jesus was talking about. They simply could not grasp the possibility of any enemy overcoming him. God’s salvation plan was still far away from their mind. Despite their ignorance, they dared not to ask him. This could be caused either by their refusal to admit their slowness of intellect, or afraid that Jesus would spell out in explicit details a truth they had not the heart to hear. Like the disciples, many of us nowadays still refuse to hear any unwelcome forecast.

In contrast to Jesus’ prediction of his passion and death, the disciples switched their mind to worldly matters. They began to engage in arguing which of themselves was the most important and who would hold the principal post in the earthly messiah kingdom which they still expected Jesus to set up.

Knowing what they were arguing for, Jesus did not reprove them for their worldliness because he knew their hearts. Instead, he told them that his kingdom would be one of service. In his kingdom, the principal post was held by a servant to all peoples. He then took a child as a symbol of his followers that they were “little ones”. Once, they became the “little ones” they would serve others as servants. And people who accepted them, Jesus assured them, and listened to their message, would be accepting Jesus Christ himself. He added that it was just like whoever accepted Jesus accepted not only Jesus but also the one who sent him, God the Father.

Today’s thought for each of us is: Christ became man, suffered and died as man, for our sakes. By his resurrection he conquered death and opened heaven for us. Heaven is our true destiny. Loving God and our neighbour and carrying our cross is the only way to reach heaven. Accept Christ and we are accepting the Father who sent him. He will in turn accept us. Amen.