My Dear Parishioners,
We continue with the study of St. Mark’s gospel by looking at ch. 9:30-37. Here Jesus reiterated to His disciples His own coming death and resurrection. But the dullness of the disciples in spiritual things appears once again, as soon as this announcement was made. There was good in the tidings as well as seeming evil, sweet as well as bitter, life as well as death, the Resurrection as well as the Cross. But it was all darkness to the bewildered twelve. “They did not understand what He was saying and were afraid to ask” (vs.32). Their minds were still full of their mistaken ideas of the Messiah. They thought that His earthly kingdom was to appear immediately. Isn't it true that we are always slow to understand when prejudice and pre-conceived notions darken our eyes?
Let us take note of the ambition and love of pre-eminence which the apostles exhibited in this passage. “.. they had argued with one another who was the greatest.” This may sound strange, for who would have thought that a few fisherman and publicans could have been overcome by emulation and the desire of supremacy. Who would have expected that poor men, who had given up all for Christ’s sake, would have been troubled by strife and dissension, as to the place and precedence which each one deserved? Yet so it was. The Holy Spirit has caused it to be written down for the perpetual use of Christ’s Church. Let us beware and act accordingly, that it is not written in vain. It is an awful fact, whether we like to allow it or not, that pride is one of the commonest sins which beset human nature. We are all born Pharisees. We all naturally think far better of ourselves than we ought. We all naturally fancy that we deserve something better than we have. This is an old sin. It began in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had not gotten everything that their merits deserved. But it is also a subtle sin. It rules and reigns in many hearts without being detected, and can wear the garb of humility. It is a most soul-ruining sin. It prevents repentance, keeps people back from Christ, checks brotherly love, and nips in the bud spiritual anxiety. May we always watch against this and be on our guard. Of all the garments, none is so graceful, none wears so well, and none is so rare as true humility.
These words are also deeply instructive. They show us that the maxims of the world are directly contrary to the mind of Christ. The world’s idea of greatness is to rule, but according to Jesus, Christian greatness consists in serving. The world's ambition is to receive honor and attention, but the desire of the Christian should be to give rather than to receive, and to attend to others rather than be attended to. In short, the person who gives of him/herself most to serve others, and to be useful in his/her time and generation is the greatest in the eyes of Christ. Let us strive to make a practical use of this heart-searching maxim. Let us seek to do good to our fellow human beings, and to mortify that self-pleasing and self-indulgence, to which we are all so prone. Is there any service that we can render to our fellow Christians?
Is there any kindness that we can do to others, to help them and promote their happiness? If there is, let us do it without delay. It would be such a great thing for Christianity if empty boasts of churchmanship and orthodoxy were less frequent, and practical attention to our Lord’s words in this passage were more common.
Let us mark lastly, what encouragement Jesus gives us to show kindness to the least and lowest who believe in His name. He took a child in His arm and said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” The principle here is a continuation of that which we have just considered. It is one which is foolishness to the natural person. Flesh and blood can see no other way to greatness than crowns, rank, wealth, and high positions in the world. The Son of God declares that the way to greatness lies in devoting ourselves to the care of the weakest and lowest of His flock. Here is encouragement for all who devote themselves to the work of attending to neglected souls, who labor to restore the outcast to a place in society and to raise the fallen. This work may often be hard and discouraging. We may be mocked, ridiculed and scorn by the world. But God notices all that is done for Him. Whatever the world may think, these are whom Jesus will delight to honor on the last day.
With all good wishes and prayers Fr. Chris Archibald