“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me.” (Mark 9:37)
This weekend we continue reading from the Gospel of Mark and we lean who will be the Greatest in the Kingdom. We find Jesus and his disciples traveling towards Jerusalem by way of Galilee; along the way He is telling them that “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.” Mk 9:3. The disciples we are told, do not understand this meaning and are afraid to question Jesus. Upon arriving at Capernaum, Jesus asked his disciples what they were arguing about along the way; they did not answer him and for good reason too. The disciples had been discussing who among themselves was the greatest. This has to be a disappointing moment for Jesus; he has just predicted his passion for the second time and his most trusted disciples are politicking about who will rule with him when they arrive in Jerusalem. Sadly, at this point, the disciples are still thinking as men do and not as God does. They are expecting the Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom restoring Israel to greatness; and as disciples, they are likely to be rewarded with land, wealth and power. Jesus to his credit answers the question of who will be the greatest in the kingdom, but it’s not an answer that is expected. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mk 9:35.
The “servant of all” is to be the greatest in the kingdom. But what does that mean exactly? Well, Jesus has an answer for that too; 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.” Mk 9:36-37. The image of children was a symbol Jesus used for the “anawim.” The word anawim is Hebrew and it is commonly found in Old Testament when referring to the lowly, the powerless and defenseless, the impoverished, those with no voice in society, the forgotten and discarded. One can serve a wealthy man, expect no payment, but we know fully that recompense might by forthcoming; not so for the anawim. By serving them, we are serving them only out of love without any expectation of repayment or favor.
In our modern day, who are the anawim in our community? It is of course the poor, but more than that, because in our country the poor are not the same as the poor in other parts of the world. The anawim today include the poor but also the people discarded by society like our brothers who live under a bridge, who only survive through the kindness of others. The anawim is the widow who is all alone in life, with no one to care for her expect the state. The anawim is the teenager who was ousted from his family’s home because of his orientation The anawim is the illegal immigrant who lives in the shadows because he broke man’s law. The anawim is the unborn child, whose life is threatened by the one person who should love and protect it the most. The anawim is that one parishioner we all know, the one who is unpleasant and lashes out at everyone; yet no one has approached them with kind words or a welcoming heart. Let’s seek out the anawim in our community and serve them so that one day we too may be considered the Greatest in the Kingdom.
Diaconate Candidate 2024