“They had argued with one another who was the greatest (9:34).

by Shiu Lan
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 2:12 , 17 - 20

James 3:16 - 4:3

Mark 9:30-37

In the workplace, have we ever wondered about our position in the team? Am I the best or one of the best in the team? From the worldly perspective, this is understandable; having put in time and effort, heart and mind into our work, we may inevitably and rightfully so, think about the return we can aspire to, some recognition, a raise, a promotion, and so forth.

Therefore it seems quite natural for the apostles, who at that time, have not received the Holy Spirit, to think about their discipleship in a human way. On their way through Galilee, Jesus was teaching his disciples and foretells his Death and Resurrection a second time. The prophecy could be frightening and confusing to the disciples, who “did not understand what he was saying” (Mk 9:32, Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament P 82). They argued with one another who was the greatest (9:34).

When they were in Capernaum and in the house with Jesus, he called the twelve apostles and explained to them what true greatness is about, “Whoever wants to be the first must be last of all and servant of all” (9:35). In the eyes of God, greatness is measured by humility and service to others. As future leaders of the Church, the apostles must shun worldly honour and attention, in order that they can serve Christ more faithfully and effectively. Jesus himself puts this principle into practice, he said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve"(10:45). (Ref. Ibid).

Today, if we find ourselves living among contentions and seeing increasing intensive conflicts and disputes in the world, St. James’ in the second reading offers us an insight into the root cause, “Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind” (Jas 3:16). Humanity too easily yields to the inclinations of their fallen nature. Wars among men are an expression of the spiritual war within themselves. It is their unending drive for power and possessions that spreads envy and violence throughout the world. St. James advises us to aspire to true wisdom from above that is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (3:17). Such wisdom will transform our heart and mind, and bring forth a pure and peaceable life, “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (3:19, Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament P. 442).

If the Son of Man does not come to be served but to serve, as followers of Christ, shouldn’t we strive to do the same and live a pure and peaceable life?