Thursday, September 20, 2012

"If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all."

When the Apostles in Sunday's Gospel for Sept. 23, 2012, giving in to pride, begin to argue among themselves as to who among them is the greatest, the Lord calls a child into their midst and thus begins to teach them the contradiction of the Christian life: "If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

"But they did not understand what He said..."

Jesus tells His people that He must suffer and die. But, as Fr. James Gilhooley points out, the apostles had no wish to know about this dour subject. They wanted to hear only about happy days. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB explains that Mark uses these scenes to explain all the ingredients of Christian wisdom. Three features of the disciples that are revealed. First, even after failure, the disciples are singled out for special instruction. Second, the disciples find Jesus' message baffling. The third thing that happens to the disciples is that they learn a profound lesson about what it means to be servant.

Our Understanding of Greatness

Sunday’s Gospel reading makes us wonder what on earth possessed Jesus to choose the ones he did to become his disciples? Self-seeking calculation had them quarrelling about which of them was the greatest. Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS says it is the ego that has the stake to claim to being the greatest. And the way the ego works is portrayed by St. James in the second reading. It breeds “jealousy and ambition” that brings about “discord and all that is evil.” Jealousy is the capital sin of envy, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio points out. And it often employs ingenious strategies to bring down its nemesis.

Fr. John Foley finds the whole episode quite comedic. Just after Jesus tells them the most intimate fact of His life, the disciples start fighting for the best toys, like children. They are truly small time glory seekers, adds Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. They didn’t really know what greatness really means, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino. They were driven by selfishness and false ambition.

But Jesus did not abolish ambition. Rather he defined it. For the ambition to rule others He substituted the ambition to serve others. Jesus, who as God's servant would soon give up his life for us, said to them, "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all." Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB says this reveals that our relationship with God is inseparable from our relationship with each other. To give oneself to God as Jesus did means to be in complete harmony with God's creative love for every human being and for all creation.

The Lowest, Poorest & Most Despised

Later on in the story, Jesus takes a little child as an example. Unless you change and become like little children you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. How can we do that? Fr. Ron Rolheiser asks how do we unlearn sophistication, undo the fact that we are adults? What kind of recessive journey can revirginize a heart?

But what Jesus is pointing to when he places his hands around the shoulders of that child is the child’s lack of status. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS  explains that in those days, children were simply disregarded. To show favour to a child was worthless. They represent the lowest, the poorest and most despised. This means, Father Cusick adds, that every one who would be saved must welcome and love the smallest unborn child, the least of the poor, the abandoned, the rejected.

Now is the time to take the antidote for envy. And Fr. Phil Bloom says it is to become like a little child, recognizing our radical dependence on God and others.

Fathers. Delayed Marriages & Contraception

When it comes to marrying, perfect is the enemy of good. Some people want their marriage to be ideal, and if there is any ordeal, they want a new deal. Come on now, Msgr. Charles Pope exhorts young people. Lets get those marriage numbers up. It’s time to leave mother and father, and just mixing it up with friends, and find a spouse and cling to one another. And when you get married, have lots of babies and raise them Catholic!

And why do Catholic women reject their Church’s teaching on contraception? Carolyn Moynihan says the HHS mandate may be a blessing in disguise. By forcing the issue of contraception to the top of the Church’s public agenda it has created an opportunity for the Church to have an internal conversation on the subject. And the “What Catholic Women Think…” study shows that such a discussion is long overdue.

Meanwhile, Thomas J. Neal, Ph.D.shares some breaking news for families: the father’s role in a child’s life is crucial. Having ‘face time’ with the ones you love is an irreplaceable dimension of being human, of fostering communion — and it is an irreplaceable means for forming the mind and heart of your child.

Dogma, Doctrine & Year of Faith

Dogma, doctrine, and theology--what's the difference? Many people are curious about the difference between dogma and doctrine. Jimmy Akin is asked about it surprisingly often. It would be nice if the Church had an official dictionary we could use to answer this question, but it doesn't. So he explains.

Meantime, Marc Cardaronella reminds us that the Year of Faith is starting soon. And, Pope Benedict has asked everyone to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But you’ll never do it. So marc challenges us all to prove him wrong! Read the Catechism this year! You can do it if you take it in bite-sized pieces. Go now. Your soul will thank me later.

At the Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 18, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Catholics must take responsibility for the evangelization of the country, and pursue this goal through humility and spiritual discipline. “The task of preaching, teaching, growing and living the Catholic faith in our time, in this country, belongs to you and me. No one else can do it.” This message was mirrored by Pope benedict to the bishops of the world: “Every believer is called to the challenge of the new evangelization” and bishops must “boldly invite the people from every walk of life to an encounter with Christ and to render more solid the faith”.

Fear, Failure & Adoration

Dealing with fear? Simcha Fisher says we will never get anywhere if we simply try really, really hard to stop being afraid. Fear needs to be replaced with something, not just beaten down or chased away. Replace fear with the image of a strong and joyful God who loves us, and who will not leave us alone forever. And Elizabeth Scalia says she found this peace. When she goes to Adoration, she finds it to be such a privilege and such a humility. She goes there in poverty — unworthy of anything, but willing to be open, because she trust that all God wants of us is our willingness.

Randy Hain observes that ours is often unfriendly and challenging world. If we want our children to cope successfully, they need to learn these lessons from us in the early years. The world, especially the business world, is not going to nurture, coddle or protect our children when they are old enough to have real jobs. If we truly love our children, can we love them enough to let them learn valuable lessons from their struggles? For their sake, I surely hope so.

Jeanette Mulvey points out to the so-called dead-end jobs at fast-food restaurants as an example. Working at McDonald's has been the launching point for many a successful career. Andie MacDowell, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and comedian Jay Leno all once worked at the fast-food chain.

Finally, a kid walks up to a demo karaoke machine in a department store, and… the world discovers that rarest of things: a pure singer. This girl can sing. Totally surprising and totally unrehearsed.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: More noble to volunteer for secular or church work?
FEATURED BLOG: Top 50 U.S. Catholic High Schools Announced
PASTORAL HISPANA: El misterio pascual es nuestra base espiritual

Post a comment.
Follow us on Twitter
Click Here to receive a FREE SUBSCRIPTION to this weekly email


  1. Lets get those marriage numbers up. It’s time to leave mother and father, and just mixing it up with friends, and find a spouse and cling to one another.

  2. Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

    Discount Polo Clothing;Ed Hardy Mens Short Polo

  3. They didn’t really know what greatness really means, says Fr. Joseph Pellegrino.