The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
23 September 2018 at Saint Peter the Apostle and St. Willian Churches in Naples, FL
Wisdom 2,12, 17-20 + Psalm 54 + James 3, 16–4,3 + Mark 9, 30-37
The crowds are gone now. The journey through Galilee to Jerusalem has begun, and instead of being followed by multitudes and surrounded by the needy and afflicted, it is only the disciples now being privately instructed, and Mark puts us right among them. Jesus wants to prepare us for what is ahead; but, it is not just about what lies ahead for Jesus. Is about what lies ahead for disciples. This time Mark has Jesus speaking in the present tense about being handed over. All other references to his Passion and Death were in the future. This time it is different. In other words, “The Son of Man is being handed over, not “will be handed over.” This is something happening right now. Reflecting on this business of “being handed over” leads us deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation and what God is doing by “handing over” his son to this world.
Thought of in the light of the Incarnation, it becomes clear that Jesus is no helpless victim. He is participating out of obedience in God’s act of redemption and saving love. God’s son is being handed over to us right here and right now. Knowing what is to come, Jesus could have stopped it, gone somewhere else, avoided the confrontation, and he would have never chosen Peter and Judas who both betray him, and by moving into the present tense, he proposes that Peter and Judas are not the only ones. We had better count ourselves with them as well. In spite of that, the handing over continues.
The disciples always want to avoid what he speaks of. It’s understandable in some sense. No one wants to be misunderstood, persecuted, judged unjustly, or abandoned by one’s friends at the greatest time of need. No one wants to be vulnerable enough to be stripped and ridiculed. So, there is no surprise in the reaction of the disciples. Earlier, Peter even says: “Never”, and he is rebuked. Today however, they are silent, which actually prefigures their response to his Passion, because when Jesus is handed over to the Chief Priests and Scribes, they are silent again. Not a single voice is raised in his defense. All he gets is Silence. Silence will not do. As disciples, we do not pick and choose what we are called to be, nor what we are sent out to do, but the desire and struggle to do so continues. When words fail, Jesus shifts to action, wraps a towel around his waist and washes feet. On the floor with water and towel is where disciples of Jesus are meant to be not picking the best place up at the table. To start thinking in terms of who is first or who sits where misses the message, and it breaks our fundamental solidarity with our neighbor.
There is no privilege in discipleship. There is no glory or honor for disciples in this world. There is only responsibility and duty to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, we are being “handed over” day after day. Just as the Father handed over his son into human nature, disciples are handed over becoming one with the world’s most vulnerable, helpless, poor, and outcast. When we give up thinking about ourselves and embrace what and who has been handed over to us, there will come that day when we will be raised up and lifted up in victory with Jesus Christ, and the will of God will be accomplished.