Last evening, for want of a better choice, we watched an episode of The Waltons before retiring. You can always count on their story to teach a lesson great or small. Last night it was about change, frustration and acceptance of “what is.” Illustrations of the themes were many but in reading the gospel this morning I was reminded of Grandma Esther who stopped going to church (a monumental shift for her) because the minister had offered another woman in the congregation a share in organist duties, a position that Grandma had performed solo for fifty years. In her anger and hurt she even told “the Reverend” that she was going to become a Methodist! (Quite a threat for such a determined Baptist!) It took awhile and a bit of wisdom from her son-in-law, John, but she finally swallowed her pride and walked out her distress all the way to Sunday service.
In the gospel for today (Mk 9:30-37) we find Jesus and the disciples walking through Galilee in a rare moment when they had been able to escape the crowds. He began to talk about his future – that he would be handed over and killed and then rise again after three days. They didn’t understand what he was talking about (and, honestly, would we, if we had been in their shoes?) but the gospel said they were afraid to question him. They must’ve been having rather animated conversation though, out of his hearing, because he asked them when they reached Capernaum, “What were you arguing about on the way?” Nobody spoke because, in the face of his predictions about his fate, they had preferred to talk about who was the greatest among them – maybe because when they heard him say he was going to be killed they wanted to be sure they were chosen to take over leadership. Pretty rude and thoughtless on their part, right?
It seems to me that until we learn to wake up to the deeper lessons in the events of our lives, we often grab onto what seems most beneficial to ourselves without considering the feelings or the effects on other people. What about the love of God that Grandma’s rival wished to express through music? What about the feelings of Jesus in the face of his enemies? Today is a good day to ponder the words of Jesus to the disciples in this situation:
If anyone wishes to be first, he [she] shall be the last of all and the servant of all.