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Gospel for Sunday, September 19: Mark 9: 30-37

XXV Sunday B

30Leaving there, they crossed Galilee, but he didn’t want anyone to know. 31In fact, he instructed his disciples and said to them: “The Son of man is about to be handed over into the hands of men and they will kill him; but once killed, after three days, he will be resurrected”. 32However, they did not understand these words and were afraid to ask him for explanations. 33Meanwhile they arrived in Capernaum. And when he was in the house, he asked them: “What were you discussing on the way?” 34And they were silent. In fact, on the way they had discussed among themselves who was the greatest. 35Then, sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36And taking a child, he placed him in the middle and embracing him said to them: 37“Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the one who sent me”.

Mark 9: 30-37

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

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Today’s Gospel presents us with the second (Mk 9,31-32) of the three Passion announcements in Mark: in the first (8,30-33) Jesus, immediately after Peter in Caesarea had recognized him as the Christ (Mk 8, 27-29), to avoid any misunderstanding “openly began to teach them that the Son of man had to suffer many things («pollà»), and be reprobated”. In the second announcement, which the Liturgy proposes to us today, the key concept is “to be delivered” (9.31), “paradìdonai”: this is a technical word, which occurs many times in Sacred Scripture, at the level of the stories of the passion. “Being handed over” means no longer being masters of oneself, it is accepting that others dominate us, it is becoming servants, slaves. Jesus “will be handed over”, like the Servant of IHWH (Is 53.10), the prophets (Jer 26), the righteous (Dan 7.24-28), the Baptist (Mk 1.14). In the third announcement (10.32-34) the meaning of this “delivery” (10.33) of the Son will be made even clearer: “they will condemn him to death…, they will mock him, they will spit on him, they will scourge him and they will kill him ”. The whole life of Jesus is a “surrender”: in fact he will be “surrendered” to the High Priests (Mk 14.10), to Pilate (15.1-10), to the soldiers (15.15), and he will “surrender himself” in ‘Eucharist (“This is my body given up for you”: 14,22-24; 1 Cor 11,24).

Faced with this prospect, the disciples rebel: at the first announcement, Peter places himself alongside Jesus, “he took him aside and began to rebuke him” (8.32). But Jesus puts Peter back in his role as a disciple, who must walk behind the Master: “Opìso mou!”, “Go after me!”, and calls him Satan, the adversary (8.33). And immediately in five sentences he announces the program for those who want to follow him: the disciple will have to deny, that is, disavow, himself, and know nothing other than the will of God (8.34); only by taking up the cross will he be able to follow the Master (8.34); he will have to measure his life not on the basis of what he will have but on how much he will be able to give (8.35-37); Jesus will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of his logic (8.38); whoever “gives himself up” like Jesus, will already in this life experience his power (9,1).

After this second announcement, the disciples no longer dare to openly contest it (9.32), but among themselves they continue to “discuss who was the greatest” (9.34). Jesus reiterates clearly: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (9.35). Even after the third announcement of the Passion, James and John will go to ask him “to sit in glory, one at his right and the other at his left” (10.37). And Jesus will reiterate the call to become “servants of all”, following his example (10.44-45).

It makes us smile when faced with such obstinacy of the disciples, such spiritual stupidity. But the evangelists insisted on presenting this apostolic foolishness to us because it is the greatest temptation ever for the believer. It is the Church, it is all of us, it is me, who practically reject this logic of God every day. We all want to be the first and not the last; we all want to “fulfil” our life and certainly not lose it; we all want to decide about ourselves, and certainly not that others have control over us; we all want honors and shun insults and persecution; we all prefer a life of comfort rather than sacrifice; we all prefer to enjoy than suffer, to command than to obey, to receive than to give, to be served rather than serve. Nobody wants to be “handed over”, to become “a man for others”, a possession of others, which everyone can use; no one feels like “emptying” themselves for others, losing themselves for them, being consumed, eaten by others, becoming “the last and servant of all” (9.35), like Jesus the Christ…

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

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