Saturday, September 19, 2009

Humility Against Fear

(25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)

The gospel we hear today continues the section of St. Mark we read last Sunday. Recall how we heard St. Peter make his great confession of faith, “You are the Christ.” But when Jesus explained what it will mean be to the Christ of God—that he will have to be rejected, suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Peter did not understand and even tried to rebuke Jesus. At that point Jesus turned it around and rebuked Peter instead, identifying him with the tempter himself, saying “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

After this, as we hear today, Jesus and the disciples then begin a journey. While they are on the way, Jesus continues to try to teach them what it means that he is the Christ: “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 the disciples still don’t get it, and, as St. Mark tells us, they are afraid to ask. In fact, the gospel reveals in a subtle way the confused spiritual condition of the disciples. On the one hand, they discuss on the way the question of “who is the greatest.” But on the other hand, these alleged candidates for greatness are afraid to even ask Jesus a question! If they’re so great, what are they afraid of? A very human truth is revealed here. So many times when people are full of themselves, think that they’re great, are stuck up, bossy, or conceited, the truth inside is that they are insecure and afraid.

By even concerning themselves with ‘who is the greatest’ the disciples are indulging themselves in a spiritual dead end. But by his act of placing the child in the midst of them, by his embrace of the child and his words, Jesus cuts through the fear and arrogance of the disciples in two ways.

First, Jesus teaches us that if we love God, if we desire the presence of God in Jesus Christ in our lives, then we must receive him in those who are vulnerable and powerless in this world. “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.” This is the self-denial that we as disciples of the Lord are called to; this is what it means to take up our own cross. We must forget about ourselves, sometimes even about how religious and holy we are, and cast our attention on receiving the poor and vulnerable around us. It is in these that the Presence of Christ is hidden.

The second teaching is the other side of the first. Each of us has ways in which we are poor, needy, and vulnerable, at least on the spiritual level. Thus, each of us, like the child Jesus embraces—a powerless nobody in society at that time—can be a bearer of the Presence of Christ to other people in our lives. But this only works if we are willing to accept and embrace our spiritual poverty, to admit our brokenness, to confess that we are all more or less at fault for the fallen state of the world. If we try to cover up our fears, anxieties, and other spiritual poverties by pretending to be great, we prevent the Presence of Christ from shining through our weakness and poverty, and deny that Presence to the people around us.

4 comments:

4narnia said...

happy 25th Sunday in ordinary time, Fr. C! and thank you for sharing your inspirational homily! during my reflection of the readings for this weekend, i get two messages: one is about the importance of "asking questions," because we don't know it all. in a way, questions can be tools for wisdom and learning and, also, when we ask questions, we admit that we are not perfect and that we don't always have the answers. there's always something to learn throughout our whole life journey! the second message i get is that of PEACE: "But the wisdom from above is pure, first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace." ~James 3:17,18~ i think St. James tells us that the fruits of righteousness can only be sown in peace and to have peace, we have to cultivate it deliberately. John Paul VI said: "Peace is more than the absence of war." i think what he might mean by this is that we have to actively wage peace, choose it and promote it with every decision for the good of all. if we choose peace, we will have it. PEACE! ~tara t~

4narnia said...

happy 25th Sunday in ordinary time, Fr. C! and thank you for sharing your inspirational homily! during my reflection of the readings for this weekend, i get two messages: one is about the importance of "asking questions," because we don't know it all. in a way, questions can be tools for wisdom and learning and, also, when we ask questions, we admit that we are not perfect and that we don't always have the answers. there's always something to learn throughout our whole life journey! the second message i get is that of PEACE: "But the wisdom from above is pure, first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace." ~James 3:17,18~ i think St. James tells us that the fruits of righteousness can only be sown in peace and to have peace, we have to cultivate it deliberately. John Paul VI said: "Peace is more than the absence of war." i think what he might mean by this is that we have to actively wage peace, choose it and promote it with every decision for the good of all. if we choose peace, we will have it. PEACE! ~tara t~

Don said...

Well done! I love the story and you've told it well.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

As usual, a wonderful post. I think many of us are like St. Peter. We "sign up" without realizing what will be asked of us -- and what is asked, while it comes with blessings, can be difficult.