Check your Gratitude Position Service. MARK 9:30–37
By Jacqui-Theresa Leiba
In this gospel, the disciples argue about which one is the greatest. There is comical irony here as the One who is the greatest walks among them, teaching and healing, as He still does today.
Jesus secretly instructs His disciples, informing them about His Passion, death, and Resurrection. There may be a teaching here for the mature Christian, so that one’s death may become a great grace for all concerned.
Death, often a taboo subject, may make some fearful or uncomfortable even to think about. Yet perhaps, there are things that need to be discussed before that time approaches. We note that “…they did not understand what He said and were too afraid to ask him” (Mk 9:32).
The disciples’ secret desires and ambitions for position and power might have blocked their understanding. Jesus’ revelation about His messianic end as suffering servant, contrasted sharply with what they would have had in mind. Their thinking was not God’s way but man’s, as Jesus had previously rebuked Peter.
Additionally, asking may run the risk of appearing foolish, and the resulting ego deflation, would indicate that none was the greatest. What a dilemma for these poor men!
Gratitude is the antidote to the epidemic of envy, greed, jealousy, and all divisions of the heart. It is “…like white blood cells for the soul; protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger and resignation” (Arianna Huffington, author).
Gratitude to God for gifts and talents of self and others short circuits the desire to compare and compete. There is thanksgiving and joy at the Lord’s generosity to all.
Jesus waited until they were in the house at Capernaum before asking the disciples what they were arguing about on the road. Silence… as they realised that they had been caught out; their guilt perhaps overwhelming them.
We can choose to see the road as symbolic of the noise and distractions of the external life, that has the potential to lead one away from the presence of God.
As one is led “in the house” (Mk 9:33) toward the interior life, motives of the heart can be clarified. Gradually one becomes still and silenced before God, predisposing one towards the movement of the Spirit in adoration, reflective prayer, and the examination of conscience. The “inner room” (Mt 6:6) becomes the place of reward by the Father, who sees what is done in secret and with a genuine desire for conversion.
To make oneself last and the servant of all, is to keep worldly ambitions in check and to allow gospel values to be the litmus test of all ambition.
In front of the Twelve, Jesus puts His arms around the young child. To welcome a little child is to realise that true greatness is found in service to the more vulnerable in our families and communities. Through the Corporeal and Spiritual acts of mercy, like Jesus, we wrap our arms of loving care and protection around them.
Cherishing this quality of childlike wonder in self and others opens one up to the glory of God.
A friend who has been through a great deal of suffering and abuse, when asked how she is doing, often responds, “I am nurturing my inner child.” What an awesome response to self-care based on Gospel values!
The gospel teaches us that in its wider sense, personal gratitude and that of a nation bring true prosperity. “Together we aspire, together we achieve” takes on new meaning. Individual giftedness is celebrated, and more importantly, the soul of a nation honours the glory of God in its midst; with all the creative talents and giftedness it has received.
The focus shifts from oil rich to Spirit wealth in our identity as La Trinite. We live as one people as we become a light to the nations (Is 49:5–6); a people set apart to sing the praises of God (1 Peter 2:9).
Lord Jesus, help us to know that ambition that pleases You is humble service to the weak and vulnerable. Help us celebrate with thanksgiving all the gifts You have given us as Your people of La Trinite. Amen.
Jacqui-Theresa Leiba is actively involved at St Patrick’s RC Church, Newtown. She facilitates contemplative prayer and retreats at the parish and at the Foundation for Human Development in Cascade.