The Gospel is not a code of laws, but the self-portrait of Jesus, a model for the Christians, an example to the apostles and good news for all who look for God with a sincere heart. In today’s Gospel, Mark shows Jesus as a teacher who repeatedly instructs his disciples about His identity as the Son of man who will be put to death, but who will afterwards rise again (v. 31). A lesson the disciples are not in a position to understand, because they are worried about the first places (v. 34). Jesus puts a stop to their ambitions for power by making himself “last of all and servant of all” (v. 35). He is the last, the child, the one the Father has sent (v. 37).
Wishing to be the first and the greatest is a natural ambition present in everyone’s heart and in every culture, and even in our Christian communities of ancient or recent foundation. Jesus overturns such human way of reasoning. At this point he says so through a statement, but later he will prove it by bending down like a slave and washing his disciples’ feet. He, the “Lord and Master” (Jn 13:14) has chosen the last place. In this way Jesus teaches with authority to every person and all peoples a new style of human, spiritual and social relationships. When dealing with God, the first relationship each person is called to practice is that of son-ship, namely the approach of every creature to a God who is Father and Creator. When dealing with our own kind, instead, we adopt a relationship of fraternity: we are all, equally, the children of the same Father and, therefore, are brothers and sisters. These relationships of both son-ship and fraternity are the kind that gives life, serenity and warmth to people’s heart.
On the other hand, the relationship ‘master-subordinate’ or ‘superior-subject’ is of a later date and a rather poor and sterile one. Unfortunately this type of association is the one that often spoils our human and social relationships, even within the Church. St. James (II reading), indeed, teaches that “jealousy and ambition” are passions that spoil our human relationships and are a source of disorder, wars and fighting… They are absolutely the opposite of the “wisdom that comes down from above”, which is rich of the good fruits of peace, consideration and compassion (v. 17).
Jesus, who did not come to be served but to serve (Mk 10:45) and to be “the servant of all”, does the highly meaningful gesture of taking a child, placing him in the middle, embracing him and inviting the disciples to do likewise (v. 35-37). A gesture that conveys a message and a lifestyle. It is the message of loving attention towards those people who are the most weak, helpless, needy and dependent for everything. The fact that Jesus holds and embraces a child – later on he will caress and bless other children (see Mk 10:13-16) – it tells us that He was an amiable and pleasant fellow. Even though the Gospel never says that Jesus smiled, the style of his relationship with children proves that he was a kind, welcoming and smiling person. Otherwise the children would have never come near him, but rather avoided him. The recommendation of Jesus on behalf of children is a very important topic also in our own time, as we are confronted with so many cases of abuse and negligence towards them. The celebration of the next “World Day for Street Children” (30 September) has the Gospel’s full support.
The virtuous and gentle, but determined, conduct of a sincere person who serves his God and loves his neighbour, often provokes the indignation of the godless who wants to get rid of him (I reading). This is the history of the past and of today about so many missionaries killed because they were uncomfortable witnesses: either because they denounced injustices and abuses of power (John the Baptist, Oscar Romero, 1980…) or caused embarrassment by their quiet service (Bl. Charles de Foucauld, 1916, Annalena Tonelli, 2003…). In his message for World Mission Sunday 2009, the Pope (*) remembers with affection and prayer those who announce the Gospel (missionaries, ordinary faithful and Christian communities) who bear witness to and spread the Gospel in situations of persecution, oppression, imprisonment, discrimination, torture and death. But those who suffer with love and “those who have faith, are never alone”. Because we know that “the Lord upholds my life” (Responsorial Psalm); this is the way that the Kingdom of God grows.
The Pope’s words
(*) “I mention especially the local Churches and the men and women missionaries who bear witness to and spread the Kingdom of God in situations of persecution, subjected to forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to prison, torture and death. Even today, not a few are put to death for the sake of his Name… Participation in the mission of Christ is also granted to those who preach the Gospel, for whom is reserved the same destiny as their Master. «If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too» (Jn 15:20). The Church walks the same path and suffers the same destiny as Christ, since she acts not on the basis of any human logic or relying on her own strength, but instead she follows the way of the Cross, becoming, in filial obedience to the Father, a witness and a travelling companion for all humanity”.
Message for World Mission Sunday, October 2009, n. 4
In the Missionaries’ Footsteps
- 20/9: SS. Andrew Kim Taegon, first Korean priest, Paul Chong Hasang, a lay person, and 101 other martyr companions of Korea, killed at different times (1839-1867), canonised at Seul in 1984. Among them: 93 Korean people (Fr. Kim and 92 laypeople) and 10 foreign missionaries (3 bishops and 7 priests).
- 21/9: St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist; after the ascension of Christ, according to tradition, he evangelised Persia, Syria and Ethiopia.
- 23/9: St. Padre Pio from Pietrelcina (Francesco Forgione, 1887-1968), Capuchin priest, endowed with special spiritual gifts, dedicated to the ministry of reconciliation and charity. His holiness and his charism continue to have a strong missionary influence all over the world.
- 23/9: The Blessed Christopher, Anthony and John, youth of Tlaxcala (Mexico), martyred at the beginning of the Mexican evangelisation (1527-1529).
- 24/9: Blessed Virgin Mary of Ransom, a title that speaks of divine mercy and has inspired the missionaries in their struggle for the liberation of slaves.
- 24/9: Bl. Anthony Martin Slomsek (+1862), bishop of Maribor (Slovenia); dedicated himself particularly to the Christian formation of families and clergy, and promoted unity in the Church.
- 24/9: In memory of Mgr. Angelo F. Ramazzotti (Italy, 1800-1861), bishop of Pavia and patriarch of Venice, founder of the Lombard Seminary for the Foreign Missions, first group of PIME.
- 25/9: St. Sergio of Radonez (Russian, 1313-1392): he was first a hermit, but later promoted community life in the monastery of the Holy Trinity in Moscow; he was sought after as a wise spiritual guide.
- 26/9: Bl. Luigi Tezza (1841-1923), Italian Camillian priest, missionary in Lima (Peru), founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus who minister the sick.
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”