Lectio Divina: Mark 9:30-37
1) Opening prayer
keep before us the wisdom and love
You have revealed in Your Son.
Help us to be like him
in word and deed,
for He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mk 9:30-37
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. For 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 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."
• Today’s Gospel narrates the second announcement of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Like the first announcement (Mk 8:27-38), the disciples were terrified and afraid. They do not understand the words about the cross because they are not capable of understanding or accepting a Messiah who becomes the servant of the brothers. They continue to dream of a glorious Messiah, and besides that, they show a great incoherence. When Jesus announces His Passion and Death, they discuss who among them will be the greatest. Jesus wants to serve, yet they only think of commanding! Ambition leads them to promote themselves at the cost of Jesus. Even to the present time, this same desire of self promotion exists in our communities.
• In the time of Jesus as well as in that of Mark, there was the “yeast” of a dominating ideology. Today, the ideology of business, consumerism, and television shows, all profoundly influence the thoughts and actions of people. At the time of Mark, the communities were not always capable of maintaining a critical attitude regarding the assimilation of the ideology of the Roman Empire. Do we have the same problem today?
• Mark 9:30-32: The announcement of the Cross. Jesus goes across Galilee, but He does not want people to know it. He is busy with the formation of the disciples and He speaks with them about the Cross. He says that according to the prophecy of Isaiah (Is 53:1-10), the Son of Man has to be handed over and condemned to death. This indicates the orientation of Jesus toward the Bible, whether in the carrying out of His own mission or in the formation given to His disciples. He drew His teaching from the prophecies. As in the first announcement (Mk 8:32), the disciples listen to Him, but they do not understand what He says about the Cross. But they do not ask for any clarification. They are afraid to show their ignorance! So many are like this today. They read or listen and do not ask questions. The result can be either ignorance, shallow understanding, or imaginative interpretations that are incorrect.
• Mark 9:33-34: The competitive mentality. When they got home, Jesus asked: “What were you arguing about on the road?” They did not answer. It is the silence of the one who feels guilty, “on the road, in fact, they had been arguing which of them was the greatest”. Jesus is a good pedagogue. He does not intervene immediately. He knows how to wait for the opportune moment to fight against the influence of the ideology in those whom He is forming. The competitive mentality and prestige, which characterized the society of the Roman Empire, was already penetrating into the small community which was just being formed! Behold the contrast: incoherence: Jesus is concerned with being the Messiah Servant and they think only in who is the greatest. Jesus tries to descend, they think of going up!
• Mark 9:35-37:. To serve instead of commanding. The response of Jesus is a summary of the witness of life which He Himself was giving from the beginning: If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all! The last one does not win a prize nor obtain a reward. He is a useless servant (cfr. Lk 17:10). Power must be used not to ascend and dominate, but to descend and serve. This is the point on which Jesus insists the most and which He gives a greater witness (cf. Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28; Jn 13:1-16). Then Jesus took a little child whom He set among them. A person who only thinks to go up and to dominate would not lend much attention to little ones and to children. But Jesus overturns everything! He says: “Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me”. He identifies Himself with little ones. Anyone who welcomes the little ones in the name of Jesus welcomes God Himself!
• A person is not a saint and is not renewed by the simple notion of “following Jesus”. In the midst of the disciples, as always, the “yeast of Herod and of the Pharisees” (Mk 8:15) could be observed. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears as a teacher forming His followers. “To follow” was a term that formed part of the educational system of that time. It was used to indicate the relationship between the disciple and the teacher. The relationship teacher-disciple is different from that of professor-pupil. The pupils go to the class of a professor in a defined subject. The disciples “follow” the teacher and live with him, twenty-four hours a day. In this “living together” with Jesus during three years, the disciples will receive their formation. Tomorrow’s Gospel will give us another quite concrete example of how Jesus formed His disciples.
4) Personal questions
• Jesus wants to lower Himself and serve. The disciples want to ascend and to dominate. What is my motivation in life? Does it match with all of my actions? Is it consistent with the instructions from Jesus?
• Do I follow Jesus and be with Him twenty-four hours a day, and allow His way of living to become my way of living and of living together with others?
• Do I follow Jesus by shuffling along the way, not really paying attention, “going along for the ride”? Or am I eager, looking and listening, trying not to miss a moment with Him?
• Many have leadership roles today in society: as a manager, or parent, or teacher, or official. How does one serve and be effective and responsible in that role and still “be last” and serve?
• How does a child learn? By watching every little action the parent does and imitating it! This how to learn as a disciple. Are we learning from Jesus by imitating His every action like children do, or are we too “adult” for that?
5) Concluding Prayer
May the words of my mouth always find favor,
and the whispering of my heart,
in Your presence, Yahweh,
my rock, my redeemer. (Ps 19:14)