In Sacred Scripture, we often find that there are certain events or sayings which are repeated. This is the case with today’s Gospel, as parts of it are very similar to what we heard in last week’s Gospel! Why is this? Why would St. Mark choose to repeat Jesus’ own prediction of his passion, death, and resurrection?
St. Mark’s Gospel contains three separate instances in which Jesus predicts his own Passion. In each instance, the pattern is the same: Jesus speaks of his Passion, the Disciples show by their actions that they have failed to understand Jesus’ words, and so Jesus gives them a teaching on discipleship. The reason this pattern is repeated three times is to illustrate the importance of understanding what it means to be a true disciple.
The lessons that Jesus teaches on discipleship focus on similar themes: self-denial, service of others, and placing other’s needs ahead of your own needs. This teaching stands in direct contrast to the arguments among the disciples, who are focused in today’s Gospel on who is the greatest among them. For Jesus, the real work of discipleship exists in being present with and among those that we serve, and those who are in need.
Why is this? Why does Jesus seem to place such high value on a leader existing in relative obscurity among the people, and not in a position of power, where their authority can be seen by all? The answer lies in our second reading. St. James does not mince words when he says that “where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” St. James reminds us that to remedy this selfish ambition, we must rely on the wisdom from above, which is “pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” This is exactly the message that Jesus proclaims when he tells the disciples to be “the last of all and the servant of all.”
As we focus on forming intentional disciples in our Family of Parishes, my prayer is that we can take these words of Jesus to heart. I pray that all of us can truly become disciples of Christ, who follow his command and example of service to others- not for our own gain, but for the sake of the Gospel.
-Fr. Steven Huber, CSB