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Jesus’ way of love puts others first

Based on the Gospel of Mark 9:20-37
Jesus as teacher. This Sunday’s readings deal with human ambition. When ambition is not properly channeled, it can result in selfishness, jealousy and even cruel behavior. However, when properly guided, it becomes other-centered.

This Sunday’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ second prediction of his suffering, violent death and Resurrection. The cross was central to his mission. The disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. Rather than ask Jesus to explain, the disciples were thinking about power and position and arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

Jesus didn’t just tell them they were wrong; he held up a higher ideal of humility and simplicity. He taught them that loving and serving others can achieve true greatness – “Anyone who wants to be first needs to be last, and to be at the service of all.” Eventually, the disciples understood they were being entrusted with God’s work and followed Jesus right to the point of putting their lives on the line for him.

As an example, Jesus put his arms around a child 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.”

A child depends on grownups for love, attention and care. To be his disciples, Jesus says we have to serve others who need our love, attention and care – the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the poor, the lonely, the oppressed, and the most helpless, vulnerable and powerless.

To forget self and to help and serve others is what Jesus taught by word and example. It’s the exact opposite of what the world and culture constantly tell us through commercials and otherwise – that “me” is first.

To be thoughtful of others, to be generous and kind to others, to serve others and to put others first is not always easy. But that is Jesus’ way of love. Tempered by humility and simplicity, giving service to others is the outward expression of our loving union with Jesus – the source of our achieving Christian greatness. That is the meaning of true discipleship.