Posted by: fvbcdm | February 23, 2015

Feast of Saint Polycarp (23 Feb 2015)

An episode in the life of Jesus that Saint Mark recounts for us in his gospel is both comical and tragic. Our Lord and the apostles were returning to Caparnaum, which had become their headquarters during Jesus’s public life, and he was aware that they were discussing something as they walked behind him.

When they got into the house, he asked them what they were talking about on the road. They kept silence. Can you imagine: here are twelve adult men to whom Jesus directs a simple and direct question, and they don’t answer him. They just stand there like children who don’t want admit what they’ve been doing when in fact their hands have been in the cookie jar.

Then Saint Mark tells us that they didn’t want to answer Our Lord because they had been discussing—of all things!—which of them was the greatest!!! We are to understand greatest in terms of their future positions in the Lord’s kingdom. As I say, it would be comical if it weren’t tragic. Here you have four fishermen, a tax collector, and then seven others whose occupations before they became itinerant followers of Jesus we don’t know—but twelve adult men, ashamed to admit what they were talking about when they thought they were out of the earshot of Jesus.

Our Lord would have justified in getting angry with them and reprimanding them very severely for their utter lack of understanding of all that he stood for. But no; patient and loving as he is, he sits them down, brings a small child forward, puts his arms around the child, and says, “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” We can imagine Our Lord saying, “Don’t you understand? It is not a question of being the greatest, but rather of humbling yourselves to be the smallest so as to be, not masters, but the servants of others in my kingdom.” He would give them a very graphic illustration of this concept on the night of the last supper, when he got down on the floor and washed their feet in preparation for the meal. Here is God, washing the feet of men.

We must always bear this picture in mind, my dear friends. Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet, over their protests because it was such a humbling and demeaning thing to do that they found it totally inappropriate for him to do such a thing. If you and I are to be the kind of people that Our Divine Lord wants us to be, we must be ready at all times to do whatever needs doing by way of service to our neighbor. If we stand on our supposed merits or dignity or elevated positions, we are not resembling Christ. “Those who exalt themselves,” he tells us, “shall be humbled. Those who humble themselves shall be exalted.” This is one of the most basic of all Christian principles. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.


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