25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"What were you arguing about on the way?" (Mk. 9:30-37)
In Mark's gospel this Sunday, undoubtedly, the disciples irritate Jesus. Picture Jesus walking and expounding on his coming death, saying, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise." Even though they did not understand Jesus' subject matter, the disciples refused to question him out of fear. Instead, the disciples engage in a heated dispute among themselves. Jesus then turns and asks, "What were you arguing about on the way?" to the house. Interestingly, the disciples' argument centered around who was the greatest and had nothing to do with Jesus' teaching. Unfortunately, Church ministers and leaders today argue about nothing having to do with being a servant of Jesus.
I have known Church ministers, leaders, and parishioners to argue about:
The length of the Mass,
The dress code for lectors and choir members,
The pastor's sermon was too short, too long,
The Parish Council is not woke,
The choir is too loud,
The money in the basket, or
The children are too loud and uncontrollable.
Interestingly, out of all the silly and worldly arguments in the Church, number seven is the most disappointing. Jesus in our gospel tells us that we must learn to be the last of all and servants of all. Mark's gospel then said, "Taking a child, [Jesus] placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, 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." And yet, we have arguments about children in the Church.
As we continue this reflection, we need to find ways to get the children in the Church and keep them there. Look at how many times the word receive appears in the last verse of our gospel. Four times we see the word receive. Examining this verse further, we discover an insightful thought. When you and I receive a child, we receive Jesus. In other words, when picking up a child or holding their hand, we are welcoming Jesus. It gets better. While we are receiving a child and Jesus, mystically, we are receiving God into our lives: Praise the Lord.
Therefore, regardless of all the Church arguments we have, we must reach out to our children. We must open our church doors for children without homes, the abused, and those with substance dependence. Our children are missing out on the teachings of the Church and the sacraments. In addition, we need to visit incarcerated children who need us now more than ever. We need to love them up, raise them up, pray them up and point them to the Creator, God. When we practice this spirituality, we will not have arguments about being great. We will be great because we will be the last, and servants of all of God's creation.
"Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it" (Pro. 22:6).
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS