Priesthood Of The Humble

5.22.18  Tues. wk.  7 – Ordinary Time (II)
Letter of St. James  4: 1 – 10
Gospel  of  Mark  9:  30 -37 

†Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.”  But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.  Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child he 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.”        

The Gospel of the Lord.

Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy     Priesthood Of The Humble

In the Scriptures today, †Jesus speaks of priesthood, your priesthood; the priesthood of the faithful.  It is a gift from †Jesus of which we all have a share – each according to one’s own state in life.  And Christians are called to be ‘a priestly people’ – to consecrate the world to God so that the world truly becomes God’s Temple.  The Gospel teaches that this can’t happen unless there is humble service and surrender.  Those are necessary virtues of this common priesthood. 

The scene in the Gospel takes place after the Transfiguration; †Jesus comes down from the mountain and He is on a journey.  Just a simple journey, a hidden journey, unrecognized by most, even by His own apostles, because He predicts His death and this goes right over their head.    He brings His friends along to teach them the model that they are to follow.  He came to serve, not to be served; and in this Gospel, †Jesus brings us along on the journey, too; and He teaches us two lessons. 

First: †Jesus instructs us about simple service.  To serve is central to the call to priesthood; in the ordained priesthood – Fr. Sheahan and I were ordained by the Bishop.  It was very clear that we were to be servants of the people of God. 

But it is also central to ‘the priesthood of the faithful’, to serve one another.   We read in Mark’s Gospel – †Jesus says: “ If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all, and the servant of all”. (Mark 9:35)   Holiness is to be the servant of all.  †Jesus did not discriminate in His service – He gave His life on the cross for everybody – not just for one particular group.  †Jesus witnesses this service by: washing feet in humility, shedding His blood in surrender, giving His flesh for food in selflessness. 

To truly serve God is to serve out of love – love in service – to Love.   God is Love and we serve the Lord in love.  It is not for prestige – as the disciples were arguing amongst themselves.  We read this in the Letter of James: “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come?  Is it not from your passions that make war within your members”? (James 4:1)  The true child of God is held in the arms of †Jesus and seeks only one reward – and that is “†Jesus”; to imitate His love and His humility. 

Servant of God – Madeline Debrel (+1964) was a 20th century, French laywoman and spiritual author.  She wrote: “To be ‘servants, one of another’, is to be those who humble themselves –  these injunctions are not just literature or some kind of myth; they are the stuff of which mutual Christian obedience is made of.” (from: The Joy of Believing; Ralph Wright, OSB, trans.; Mediaspaul, Sherbrouke, QC, 1993)  We are called to be servants and we must obey that call. 

Secondly: †Jesus also teaches us about friendship; friendship with the least of our brothers and sisters.  He didn’t choose the greatest thinkers or the most successful people.  What did †Jesus choose in this scene?  He held up a child as a symbol of the lowly!  In the ancient world, children had no rights, no positions, and no privileges of their own.  They had no rights!  †Jesus elevated the status of this child – placing the child in their midst, in a privileged place of honor, seating him with the host.  Again – in Mark’s Gospel, †Jesus says: “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”. (Mark 9:37)

†Jesus associated with those who were neglected or pushed aside.  That’s the model for us to follow.  Who are the greatest in the kingdom?  Not those who assert their rights before God, but those who willingly empty themselves of self-seeking glory – taking the lowly position of a servant or child.  We read in the Letter of James: “God resists the proud, God gives grace to the humble”. (James 4:6)

So the priesthood of †Jesus Christ is a simple priesthood and †Jesus explains that our greatness comes from humility before God – and service to others.   That is – ‘To be Christ to others in love – to bring mercy to the needy in joy – to be the presence of Christ in peace’.  To be in Christ is to be that child in His arms, not seeking prestige, but to be friends with the least and to embrace the imperfect.   

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all – and servant of all”. (Mark 9:35)

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.