The Gospel assigned for the Sunday, September 23 comes from Mark 9: 30-37. In this reading we hear for the second time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus will be handed over to the powers and will die and rise. But the message was lost on the disciples who continued to think that their Christ, the Christ the Jewish people had been waiting for, would conquer the powers that held the nation down in servitude. In fact, they were so sure of themselves that they started arguing about who would be first in that restored kingdom, along side Jesus. They were wrong! They didn’t understand and they didn’t ask.
As they ended the journey for the day, they entered a house in Capernaum where Jesus asked them what they had been discussing on the way. They were too embarrassed to answer. But Jesus knew their hearts and how they were vying for positions of power within the restored kingdom.
The lesson from Jesus came fast and clear: if anyone wants to be first, that person will be the last of all and the servant of all. This is not what they wanted to hear. And to make his point, Jesus placed a child in the middle of them and Jesus put his arms around the child and said: “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.”
What lesson for us? Certainly the clear message is that those who have leadership in any institution, but especially the church, are to be the servant of all. This is difficult for people with power. It is too easy to lord it over others and feel a sense of privilege, of having earned the position and therefore having every right to exercise authority in a manner that is heavy-handed and often, uncharitable.
The little child that Jesus placed in the middle of them is the model for all leaders, in the church, society, and the family. How we treat children, the weak, the poor, the powerless, is a measure of how faithful we are to the mandate of Jesus to serve if we want to lead.
That is why it is so important now to be engaged in the political process—to help protect the rights of our children to good food, health care, education and loving, caring adults who embrace our children with loving concern. And this is a call to all adults, all members of churches.
Our citizenship may be in heaven, but it starts with our citizenship here and now as we work to make God’s Kingdom come, on earth.