by: Br. DJ Garcia, [cjm]
Who is the greatest? This is the question the disciples cared and argue about along their journey. Even after when Jesus had just predicted his own suffering and death, to which the disciples did not comprehend but were afraid to ask.
It is a natural human desire to aspire to be great, to actualize one’s potentials and reach the height of greatness. But more often than not, we associate greatness with power, possessions and accomplishments. The capacity to influence and to enforce one’s will and design on others is also a measure of one’s greatness. Moreover, we associate greatness with intellectual greatness, as we honor people with great minds: the revolutionary persons whose thoughts and actions have made significant changes and contributions in the world. That is how the world perceives greatness: success in the areas of power, possessions and accomplishments such that the rich, the powerful, the influential are revered.
On the contrary the Lord Jesus sees greatness differently: in terms of humility, service and love. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Certainly, this is not how the world sees greatness, but this is power in God’s kingdom. How difficult this is for us, for it is natural to be ahead of the rest, to be the best in the class, to stamp one’s desire on others, to be served. And with our position, our power, our accomplishments, deep within us, we carry a certain sense of entitlement: I am important (or even, I am great). I need to be served by others.
Jesus reinforces and illustrates his point by taking a child and carrying him in his arms, to which he challenges us to do likewise, to receive a child in his name. This is not as simple as it is. In the Jewish ancient world, children have little value, for they are considered weak and powerless. As such, children are very vulnerable. What the Lord tells us then, is to receive and to serve the vulnerable. These are the children, the aged, the sick, the poor, the underprivileged, the needy. They are the ones in the peripheries, the marginalized. They could be whom the society considers unimportant or less important because they are not efficient or no longer can contribute significantly to society. Jesus in stooping down to carry a child in his arms, can be interpreted as uplifting the dignity of the vulnerable by serving them and responding to their needs.
Jesus came to serve and not to be served. His whole life was a service for others. Let us have, then, this “servant” mentality. Let us have the mind of Jesus.
A “servant” mind and heart would always look for opportunities to serve. To be great, serve!
Let us then, serve one another, especially, let us serve the weak, the needy and the vulnerable.
To be humble is to do service, and to do service is to love.
by: Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM
Today’s Gospel passage from Mark declares that discipleship is integrally connected to true knowledge of who Jesus is. This underscores the importance for each one of us to respond to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
We cannot just blurt out or parrot what Peter confessed without understanding, accepting and living its meaning. We have to look deep into our hearts to find our response based on our lived experiences. What Peter said did not just come instantly out of the blue. It was revealed and nurtured by God through the many encounters with Jesus in his words and deeds, and by being at the feet of the Master 24 hours a day, seven days a week until it was crystallized on that moment.
It goes without saying that knowledge and recognition of Jesus as the Christ is a good start but it is not enough. Stopping and staying there reduces human response to Jesus’ revelation of himself to mere mental or intellectual pursuit where the core of one’s being is left unaffected. Jesus must be lived in our hearts, so that our whole being may be informed by his true identity. It means experiencing Jesus in all facets of our daily routine, including our pains and sufferings.
When Jesus revealed to the disciples his eventual suffering, rejection and death as well as his resurrection after three days, he was taking them to a deeper understanding of his identity, already acknowledged and confessed by Peter. He was, in effect, trying to tell them that he is the Christ, God’s love incarnate, totally given for our sake that no suffering or threat to his life could derail or block. His passion, death and resurrection is the peak of his total self-giving, revealing how much God loves us. Peter, however, missed the point just as we do when we fail to acknowledge pain as a gift.
We cannot see and accept the point of suffering and pain of carrying our own little crosses, and following Jesus if our knowledge or recognition of him is superficial. All the stuff that we learn in catechism, and from the homilies, talks and books about Jesus has to come alive in us, so that they do not just remain as part of the body of knowledge that we can summon and blurt out when we are tasked to explain our faith. They have to be internalized and personalized, so that they are no longer extraneous to who we are as human beings. Otherwise, we will frequently find ourselves questioning God why he allows evil to happen in this world, crying and complaining bitterly, if not altogether deciding to negate the very existence of God in the apparent bleakness, hopelessness and aimlessness of life.
In Jesus, only in Jesus, can we see meaning in life, in general, and in horrid human conditions, in particular. The way to discipleship takes us there and instructs us that the difficulties of life can teach us to live fully and well just as Jesus did even when he was confronted by suffering and death. All our crosses are gifts that allow us to participate in the life of Christ. When we are able to live and let live like him in the darkness of human frailty and sinfulness, then what is there to stop us from being more fully alive in the light.
We have many shining examples from the lives of ordinary Christians who were able to become true disciples. St.Therese of the Child Jesus saw and lived Jesus in the simplicity of life in the Carmelite monastery, understanding and practicing the meaning of her faith even in what may be so trivial as sweeping the floor or smiling at a disagreeable sister. St. John Eudes called his persecutors his benefactors as he consciously lived and preached the life of Jesus even in times of uncertainties and at the lowest ebb of his life. St. Mary Euphrasia endured the ire of her sisters when she pursued a new way of governance in her congregation that she was branded as overly ambitious. St. Jeanne Jugan accepted her fate when she was “sidelined” and her role in the congregation she founded was diminished, but she recognized God’s hand that allowed her to form and influence many young novices.
This is also happening to all of us, saints-in-the-making! We all know of OFWs who endure the loneliness of working abroad and the pain of separation from their families so that they could provide for their children. More common are fathers and mothers taking long hours of work, and doing what they can to make ends meet and take care of the kids without complaining. Sometimes, it is the children who have to bear the cross of the family and bear witness to their parents that it is possible to choose discipleship by simply choosing to be good children and students against all odds. Terminally ill patients face pains and sufferings of life and the fear life after life with heroic convictions. Humble, ordinary folks suffer all the hardship of making a living and yet generously giving a good part of what they earn to help others. The list goes on and on.
It only means that this discipleship, a continuous process of knowing, loving and living Jesus not only in good times but more especially in bad times, is within the reach of all. It does happen in our lives through a conscious decision of seeing, living, and sharing Jesus in our lives!
Father, you have revealed and sent to us your Son to heal, redeem and call us into the path of discipleship. May the merits of his total gift of himself win for us the grace to carry our cross and follow him in a life that proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. Amen.
by: Rev. Mike Dupo. CJM
When we were still a baby we learned to speak by simply imitating the words we heard from our parents and other persons surrounding us, but what if we did not hear anything? Surely no words would come out from us. Our tongue would taste only the food we ate but we could not express what it was.
This is the case of a man or woman who could not hear anything since birth; there are no words that he or she could express. That is why being deaf and mute are inseparable case. Once we are in the situation of a hearing and speech impediment, we are like an exile from the community of normal people.
We need the help of someone who could touch us so that we could experience healing. A person would be healed if there is love, acceptance, care, and concern. But only through God’s grace it is possible. This is the message of the readings tries to convey to us.
The prophet Isaiah on his second book is exhorting the people of Israel not to be frightened but be courageous for God would surely bring them back to their own land. This journey-home to their original place is considered as their marvelous healing. Through God’s saving grace, the Israelites will be restored.
The second reading from the letter of St. James is reminding his community that the gift of Faith in Jesus Christ helps the person to see Christ in others. He admonishes everyone to avoid discrimination by means of favoritism. This is one way of sending into exile persons most especially the poor ones. This should not happen because Faith in Jesus Christ does not allow favoritism and exclusion of others. Faith in Jesus does not send the poor into exile. The God who brought back the Israelites and freed them from captivity is the same God who loves everyone through His Son Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel we see how Jesus Christ cured a deaf man who had speech impediment. He cured him not only physically but also spiritually. The man who had been cured was exiled for a long time because of his physical disability. But here comes a Messiah; a truly Human and truly Son of God who could end the exile of a man suffering from discrimination from society by saying “Ephphatha” or “Be opened” and immediately his health had been restored. The health restoration led him go back to his natural community - a community that could communicate.
The miracle is truly God’s saving action. We could continue this miracle if we let ourselves become instruments of God in bringing back home those marginalized in our society; the poor, the needy, the disabled, the oppressed, the victims of injustice and many more people who need the healing touch of Jesus Christ.
The following reflections are courtesy of Eudist Fathers in the Philippines with some Eudist seminarians assigned to give their sharing and reflections on Sunday readings.