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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20 + Psalm 54: 3-8 + James 3: 16-4:3 + Mark 9: 30-37
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: September 19, 2021

In last Sunday’s Gospel passage from Mark, we heard the first passion prediction
by Jesus, and today we hear his second passion prediction.
At the very center of Mark’s Gospel there are three “Passion” predictions by Jesus
about his upcoming suffering, death, and resurrection—the first in chapter 8,
the second in chapter 9, and the third in chapter 10.

Following each of these three passion predictions, the reaction of the disciples reveals
that they are completely clueless as to what Jesus is saying.
After the first one, Peter has the gall to take Jesus aside and tell him
this is not part of God’s plan.
After the second one, they argue about who is most important.
After the third passion prediction, James and John have the audacity to ask Jesus
for seats on his right and left hand when he comes into the glory of his kingdom.
Each time, though, Jesus uses their misunderstanding as an opportune teaching moment, showing the disciples what it looks like to follow his example of self-giving,
passionate love.

After today’s second passion prediction, the disciples argue amongst themselves
about who is the greatest.
Jesus responds by teaching them what greatness looks like in the Kingdom of God.
He simply says that if you want to be great, you must be the servant of all.

But what makes one a servant? What does being a servant look like?
Jesus uses a visual image by drawing a child to himself and telling those
who would follow him that welcoming a child is the true path to greatness,
welcoming a child is what servants do.

This shocks the disciples, for in the Biblical world,
children are seldom noticed by men, much less served by men.
Jesus’ teaching turns their world upside-down.
They think greatness is about having power over others,
while Jesus shows them that greatness comes from serving the powerless.

For children are perfectly powerless.
They must ask for everything and anything they need.
The child is the symbol of the helpless, the dependent,
those shut out of privilege and power.
A child relies on others to take care of him or her.

A child is one who lacks things.
A child lacks experience, command of language, knowledge, and legal rights.

Greatness in the kingdom of God comes not from having power over others
but from serving these who are powerless.

Obviously, this means being a voice for the voiceless child in the womb
and seeking to end the evil of abortion.
Clearly one of the ways to be such a servant of the Kingdom of God
is by accompanying mothers in problem pregnancies, helping them to give birth
to their children, and then providing the necessary resources to care for their children.

But we cannot stop there, for we need to ask the question:
Who else in our midst who are like children because they are easily preyed upon
because of their dependence on others and their lack of power?
What about the homeless and the hungry?
What about the elderly and the ill?
What about the ones who are materially poor or who are victimized because of their race?

Who else needs our service because of their lack of command of language
or lack of access to legal rights?
What about the immigrant and the refugee?

But first these “little ones” need to be seen before we can serve them.
First they have to be acknowledged as children of God, and then they can be served.

This is where Catholic Charities steps in by placing in our line of vision
the “children” we are called to serve.
Catholic Charities brings to our awareness who we are called to serve.
Once we notice them, we can then lovingly assist them as Jesus commands
by supporting the good work of Catholic Charities.

Jesus concludes his challenging teaching with an incredible promise.
When we welcome the “child” in our midst, we welcome Him as the child of God.
And when we welcome Him, we welcome the One who sent Him, the Father of us all.

So, something much, much more is going on when we serve the “child” in our midst.

We are receiving into our life in these encounters with those who are like children,
the Lord of Life, the Son of God.
We are receiving the One who sent his only Son into the world
to teach us how to love each other, especially those most in need of our love.

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi