WITNESSING THE KINGDOM OF GOD THROUGH SELF-EFFACING LIFESTYLE AND SELF-GIVING SERVICE
25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B REFLECTION.
ReflexionThese Sundays we are listening to the Gospel according to Saint Mark. Those of us who are a bit familiar with this gospel can recall very well the words of our Lord Jesus, right at the beginning of his public ministry in Galilee: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe in the good news” Mk 1:15. Now, when we talk of the Kingdom of God, we mean, to live in the way God expects us namely « to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk12 :31).
And when we say that Kingdom of God has come near, we mean that it is almost there, yet there is still something missing. The missing part could be a secret to be discovered or a certain way of life one needs to adopt in order to bring the Kingdom of God to us. In other words, the Kingdom of God is near; however, it requires at the same time our involvement. In today’s gospel (Mk 9 :30-37), Jesus instructs his disciples and each of us here about how to bring heaven to earth, how to make manifest the Kingdom of God in this world. The Twelve were arguing as to which of them was the greatest. Jesus says no to this kind of competition. For Jesus, if we want God’s rule to guide our life and enable us to enjoy life here on earth, each of us needs to impose on himself/herself the challenge to be the last of all and servant of all. To illustrate this, Jesus gives us the example of a child ; a generic name. A child is a human being in the process of becoming somebody ; mostly under the guidance of the parents or the society. Taken like this, a child does not have a social position like a Governor, a Paramount chief, a General of the Armed forces or the likes. A child does not possess an academic title like doctor, master or anything like these. Aside from belonging to a particular group or race, when we look at a child from an adult perspective with all the social distinctions that separate us, we can state that a child has very few distinctive elements. Expressed otherwise, a child is almost a “nobody”. A child just belongs to a group or class and is equal to all the children of that particular group. This is the challenge that our Lord is asking us to embrace today. To be the last of all and servant of all, we have to accept first to be like a child, that is, to get rid of whatever distinction separates us from the others in order to be equal to anybody and then start serving our fellow brothers and sisters without discrimination and without expecting anything in return. To a Christian and contender in the parlementarian elections, I once asked: "what will you do if people elect you?" He replied: “Father, you will see! And he named all personal privileges and material benefits related to this position. My dear brothers and sisters, whenever we nurture the ambition to be the greatest, we not only lay heavy burdens on others; but we also keep them on the other side of the fence. The fence separates male from female, rich from poor, superior from inferior, and the likes. Consequently, one side of the fence has to serve and the other has to enjoy the service. In other words, hatred and violence come in. This is where we “find disharmony and wicked things of every kind being done”, as it was pointed out by St James in the second reading (3 :16-4 :3). This way of life has done great harm in the history of humanity: Transatlantic slave trade, human trafficking; and genocides in different parts of the world, just to name a few. Christians have to get rid of those distinctions, destroy walls that divide human race in order to build a single body of people in spite of existing differences. This is what Saint Paul says to the Galatians (3:27-28) and to the Corinthians (1Cor 12:13). In Colossians, it is beautifully written: “Seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”(Col 3:9-11) This new group of people will eventually stand out by its way of being and doing. These days, I am influenced by the reading of The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, an Eastern Orthodox author. Somewhere he says that Christians should be“good at creating a christian culture because it is all about developing and sustaining the Christian cultus, a Latin word, meaning worship. A culture is the way of life that emerges from the common worship of a people. What we hold most sacred determines the form and content of our culture, which emerges organically from the process of making a faith tangible.” Later on he adds: “The sad truth is, when the world sees us, it often fails to see anything different from nonbelievers. Christians often talk about ‘reaching the culture’ without realizing that, having no distinct Christian culture of their own, they have been co-opted by the secular culture they wish to evangelize. Without a substantial Christian culture, it’s no wonder that our children are forgetting what it means to be Christian, and no surprise that we are not bringing in new converts.” If really we want to be the last of all and servant of all, as Christians, we “must stop ‘being normal’, in words of Rod Dreher. We will need to commit ourselves more deeply to our faith, and we will need to do that in ways that seem odd to contemporary eyes.” The last words belong to our Lord and Master: “You call me Teacher and Lord-- and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples…" (John 13: 13-15 ; 35).