Arguing on the way - Catholic Courier

Arguing on the way

The Gospel story related at Mark 9:30-37 can be amusing to any parent of two or more children.

After a journey through Jerusalem, Jesus asks his disciples what they were arguing about on the way. But they remained silent.

Many parents hear children arguing in another room and try to help resolve the issue by determining what the fighting is about. Instead of continued arguments they are met with stony silence.

Often children are arguing over their respective rights or their comparative abilities, or their relative value and worth.

It turns out the disciples were having a similar argument to sibling rivalry. They had been debating which among them was the greatest.

Jesus called them together to explain a teaching that at first seems counter-intuitive and even nonsensical.

"If anyone wishes to be first," he taught them, "he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

Then Jesus did something unusual for the ancient culture of the time. He took a child and put his arms around it, and said, "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."

Children had no status in the ancient culture. They had the status of slaves or servants. It was the elders who were honored and respected. People had children to do work for them, serve them and care for them in their old age.

Jesus treated the child he used as an example with love and warmth. He provided his followers with a paradox. It was unthinkable at the time to treat children with honor and respect — to serve them and affirm them.

But his action gave the disciples a lasting image of how to truly be first — by humbly being last of all and servant of all.

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