We all know the saying “Success is often in the eye of the beholder.” The Gospel this weekend speaks to what Jesus proclaims as success. Keep this in mind as you reflect on the scriptures.
Our first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, speaks about the trials the “just one” must endure. In the story the plotters resent the person who dares point out their mistakes. They clearly ponder if the just one would stand for God and against threats of condemnation and death. We consider this to be a prediction of the Passion, which Jesus himself announces in today’s Gospel reading. We note that this is Jesus’ second prediction of his passion in the Gospel of Mark.
The juxtaposition of the gospel passage alongside this reading is meant to be more than just a simple predication of a prophet. Jesus strikingly clarifies that his deliverance into the hands of people is not accomplished by humans, as in the first scripture reading, but is part of his mission and especially part of God’s wisdom. Jesus will not only overthrow the wisdom of human beings in serving the wisdom of God, he will also save those very human beings in the bargain.
The beginning of today’s Gospel is filled with portentous and ominous thoughts. With just his closest apostles with him, Jesus announces his mission to fulfill God’s will in this near incomprehensible way. Note how the disciples either do not get it, or they get it and cannot face it. They avoid the issue entirely and consequently bicker among themselves about who is greatest.
Jesus will not allow them to get away with their misinterpretation and childish behavior. Thus Jesus takes a small child by the hand and sets this little one in plain sight, so the disciples cannot miss his intentions. He urges his followers to be childlike and especially to make themselves open and of service to others.
How would you sum up the life of Jesus so far in the Gospel story? His birth and the first thirty years of his life are left virtually untold. He was a skilled laborer, a carpenter, however, he chose to be a wandering preacher. The followers he chose were by and large illiterate and physically hard working men. He welcomed everyone, but most especially the poor and powerless came to him. He had very little formal education; he owned nothing; bought and sold nothing. Poor people sought him for a brief time, then they left him. His closest followers did not stand by
him. Only young John stood by him at his death at Golgatha. Does this sound like success?
However, there is another way to see Him. At his birth, it is reported that the heavens were filled with angels on that night. He spent the short years of his ministry announcing the presence of God among us. He chose simple, good-hearted followers. He welcomed everyone, but mostly the poor and powerless came to him in their need. When he died on the cross, he asked for God’s tenderness and extended forgiveness for a repentant thief, and asked forgiveness for his unwitting executioners. Did he succeed in having a meaningful life?
And equally important, do those who failed him sound like they succeeded? Are you succeeding in having a life of meaning, value and purpose?
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