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Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time B

September 19, 2021

Mark 9: 30-37

By Rev. John Tran

Jesus is at it again. He confuses his disciples because he is telling them things that do not fit into their understanding of both who the Messiah is and how a person is supposed to serve him. Just as we saw last Sunday, Jesus tells the disciples that he is to suffer and die at the hands of evil men; but, Jesus will rise from the dead three days later. It seems that all this just does not compute with his followers. They do not understand what all this means, and they are afraid to ask because maybe them they will understand him. What Jesus says is just too foreign to what they can understand about a messiah. And, if they should be able to understand what this means, then maybe they would have to do something they do not want to consider.

Peter, James, Andrew and John, and all the rest are still trying to see what they will get out of being a disciple. They want to be the first one; they want to exercise power and influence; they want to be number one. So just as they did not understand about Jesus role as Messiah, they do not understand their role as follower of Jesus. They are called to give up all the ideas they have on what leadership in Christ means.

Women, children, and servants had no legal rights at all in Jesus’ time; they were considered unimportant, certainly not leaders or number One. To ask a free man to serve as a child, woman or servant is degrading and disgusting. Jesus is asking his disciples to change the way people are treated and served by those who follow him.

So, Jesus is telling his disciples of old and of today, just what one can expect out of being a disciple: That if you want to be a follower of Jesus, you must become like a child. That means that you are the least of all. You stand with the powerless ones who are ignored by society. Isn’t this what Jesus says over and over: the least shall be first, and the first shall be last. We cannot be a disciple for the glory of it; if we are a disciple for this reason, then we are in danger of losing our way. Instead of leading others to Jesus, we will be doing the opposite. We must become one with that child, that is, one with the powerless ones.

Elie Wiesel, Jewish writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner tells a disturbing story in one of his books about Auschwitz. As soon as children arrived by train at Auschwitz, together with the elderly and the sick, they were immediately selected for the gas chamber. On one occasion a group of children were left to wait by themselves for the next day. A man asked the guards if he could stay with the children during their last night on earth. Surprisingly, his request was granted. How did they spend that last night? He started off by telling them stories in an effort to cheer them up. However, instead of cheering them up, he only succeeded in making them cry. So, what did they do? They cried together till daybreak. Then he accompanied the little ones to the gas chamber. Afterward he returned to the prison yard to report to work. When the guards saw him, they burst out laughing. –The story has most of the ingredients of our reading. In it we see the brazenness of the evil-doers, the persecution of the innocent, and the apparent triumph of evil, which is the subject of the first reading. The man’s heroic act of service towards the little ones shines out in the darkness of Auschwitz. He risked his life to befriend the little ones. He had no answers to give them, no salvation to offer them. All he could do was suffer with them and accompany them on their last journey. Though he was an ordinary person with no rank or status of any kind, he was undoubtedly the greatest person in that sad place on that sad occasion. What made him great was his goodness and care for the powerless.

It is only if we receive all, even the powerless, as Jesus received that child, then we receive Jesus; and as Jesus says,” whoever receives me, receives the One who sent me.”

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