Dear Followers of Jesus,
In Mark 9:30-37, today’s gospel, Jesus reveals to his disciples that something new will happen. The something new is that he will be handed over to people who will kill him and after three days he will rise. These words along the trip to Galilee could not be comprehended by the followers of Jesus. These words were too much for them.
The disciples thought that the teachings of Jesus were going to bring them a new identity. They believed they would sit in a circle of power on the earth that was going to create for them authority and control over other people. Jesus invited them to realize that his death and resurrection was the authority they were seeking.
So, Jesus corrected their thoughts about authority and power. He told them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” This statement must have haunted the disciples because they thought following Jesus would provide for them much privilege and status. Instead, Jesus called them to stop arguing among themselves about who would be given the greatest role and be held up in great esteem.
To demonstrate his corrective, Jesus invites a child into their midst. Of course, a child at that time represented not power, but powerlessness. A child had no rights or status. The child could not own land or be given high esteem among the people. A child and a widow at the time were without cultural status.
In this text, the child can also be considered as a new perspective on life, a new generation of thinking, status, and a way of life. The child in their midst is a metaphor of what will happen to Jesus. He will rise from the dead, and that will be a new view of life. There will be a new generation who will think differently. The child represents baptism. Those made new in Christ will bring new life to the world. A new view of God will be revealed in the child. And Jesus wants his disciples to become childlike, to take on this role of faith, by dying to self and to rise in his new authority even here on earth.
The child stands among the disciples to live differently in the world. The child is innocence and wonder. The child is also viewed as a dependence on God, to rely on God for everything. The child is a world view that is both new and extremely challenging. Baptism brings us to becoming childlike on the earth. The new, the child, the newly initiated, become a new innocence of love.
Following Jesus is demanding. Yet, we are to be childlike in doing so. Following Jesus is not a club or a quick ticket to get what we want. Following Jesus becomes a letting go of the old and receiving new. This constant conversion of dying and rising brings us new life on earth. This is our status, this is our power, to die to self and to accept the person of Jesus in our lives.
How do we become bearers of such innocence in Christ Jesus? How do we let go of our control, our posture of power in our world to allow Christ into our actions, our ways of life? These are questions for every follower of Jesus. We can get stuck in our old ways, in the surety of doings things the same from generation to generation. We can hold tight to rituals, prayers and certainties with hearts that are tight with pride, control, and only human authority. The richness of faith is that we are constantly being made new; we are constantly children of God.
We come open hearted to God as children teach us on earth. We reach out to the Father’s hand to be guided in all we do on earth. We live on earth to die to self and to become filled with the riches of God’s love and mercy. Our authority on earth is to bear the name of Jesus Christ who fills us with hope.
Our innocent hearts are filled with the power of Christ Jesus.
“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.”
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor