Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jesus, teach us as you did at Capernaum!



They now left that district and made a journey through Galilee. Jesus wished it to be kept secret; for he was teaching his disciples, and telling them. "The Son of Man is now to be given up into the power of men, and they will kill him and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he said, and were afraid to ask.
So they came to Capernaum; and when he was indoors, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" They were silent, because on the way they had been discussing who was the greatest. He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all." Then he took a child, set him in front of them, and put his arm around him. 'Whoever receives one of these children in my name", he said "receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me." Mark 9: 30-37

For he was teaching his disciples. Now the teaching is not public, but private. The time is short, and Jesus has much to tell them about the Kingdom of God. Jesus, in the privacy of my heart, teach me what I have yet to learn of God's rule.

But they did not understand. This "not understanding" is a repeated theme in the Gospels. Sometimes we're so very busy in our religious lives and someone might ask legitimately, "What does this have to do with Jesus and the Kingdom of God he proclaimed?" Fair enough. We should care, and take the question to heart, rather than defending ourselves so quickly. 

They were afraid to ask. Why would the disciples be afraid to ask Jesus anything? Maybe because Jesus' answer would require a change of mind. Many people resist (even bitterly) changing their minds. When was the last time you heard someone say, (even yourself), "You know, you're right; I never thought of it that way before," or "Wow, I was really wrong about that!"

They were silent. Jesus has heard the disciples arguing on the road, and he calls them out on it. But they are like children who have been caught in a lie, or something shameful and embarrassing. 

If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all. This is a central piece of Jesus' teaching. Think of bad-tempered athletes who let their unhappiness be known because they don't come in first place. Or someone who is all put out because he/she didn't get the desired position. Spoken or unspoken, the cultural thinking is something like this: How can I win? What's in it for me? How can I get out of this? Let me know what's expected before I commit.  Instead of looking to control and dominate, Jesus asks us to put ourselves at the service of others. My goal should be: How useful can I be? 

I know a family who have recently bought a motel. When I asked the mother (who is also the oldest) "And what are you going to do in the new business?" she immediately answered and laughed, "I don't know; clean  toilets?" Jesus would be sooo un-impressed with stardom!

Then he took a child.  In the ancient world, no other philosopher or guru or religious teacher ever featured children so importantly as did Jesus. There's a lot to learn from children spiritually. French author, Arnaud Desjardins, wrote: Mindful and creative, a child who has neither past, nor examples to follow, nor value judgments, simply lives, speaks and plays in freedom.

12 comments:

  1. The key to all of this is to keep our hearts open to Jesus. But how to do this when even those who followed directly in his footsteps on earth had trouble with understanding this concept?

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    1. There is no size fits all. You keep your heart open to Jesus as YOU do. But as my old priest-friend used to say, "Do everything you can to get Christ into your life; there is everything to take him away."

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  2. One of my earliest memories of bible stores was Jesus telling the Apostles to let the children come to Him and sit on His lap. I wanted to sit on His lap too! And as I grew up, I realized that Jesus was inviting all of us, God' children, to sit on His lap and to listen. Oh that we could listen like a small child, who's mind is free and clear of obstruction and open to all things?

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    1. I remember my First Communion catechism in 1957 and the picture you reference of Jesus surrounded by children. It captured my heart.

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  3. I pray that I am useful enough in God's eyes that he would be impressed with me. I think that we all want God's nod of approval. I know there is much more than I can do so it never seems enough. Often times I feel selfish which in turn makes me feel guilty. That I help the wrong people, that I go about things in the wrong way, that I neglect my family because every waking moment isn't spent on them. So teach me Jesus. Teach me to be childlike again.

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    1. We mustn't analyze and assess too much; it makes us overly sensitive and serious. Live your own unique life truly, as Jesus lived his.

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    2. But shouldn't we reflect and change what we can? Isn't this what the examination of conscious is all about? I know that God will love me no matter what, but I am aware that I am far from the life of a saint. I look at some saints and wonder how they could live so purely and selflessly. You are a priest who has made sacrifice and has dedicated his life in service to others. Your place in heaven is secure. God bless you and please pray for me, a perpetual sinner.

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    3. Oh my goodness - no priest's salvation is so "secure". How did we ever come to think that? Examination of Conscience? There's a value to it of course, but I think we look for sin too much. I wish we'd spend more time looking positively for how to live our own lives as beautifully and truthfully and fully as Jesus lived his. Imagine if at the end of the day instead of counting up how many times I was a little short, lazy or snappy, I went about identifying all the moments that were like little sanctuaries where God was encountered in all of God's surprise and wonder throughout the day now over? What a different life-orientation. I was raised to believe that sin is around every corner. I don't believe that anymore. Rather, an encounter with God is around every corner and I hope this is all practice for, as Pope Benedict recently said, the final encounter when we step over to see Jesus face to face. I grew up with God being all irritated and disappointed with us. That's not how it is. Jesus doesn't go around all put out and in a bad mood in the Gospels. He's like a mother who is delighted with the child's every tentative step, and in the child's inevitable stumbles and falls, there's no scolding or lecturing, but rather the child is stood up again and encouraged to take the next step. Lot's of people don't know this, including lots of priests. I'm rather well-versed in reading the lives of the saints, and more than a few of them could have used some Gospel cheering up - some Gospel Good News.

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  4. Jesus is a good teacher. We have to be better studets. Paying better attention to what he says. Listen and do.

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  5. I love reading your posts and the dialogue that sometimes follows for you offer new insights and thoughts to people's reactions. I would like to offer a third voice to this one. I see the point of view of the Anonymous above and I appreciate your response as we do focus on our sins too much and often forget to look for the good in ourselves and in others. But also, Father, you mustn't be so humble. You can turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, you can forgive people's sins, and you have chosen a rich, yet lonely path, giving up the chance of having a wife and family. I know that priests are men and have their faults, but God will surely not overlook the good they do and the sacrifices they make. I don't think the saints thought they would become the people we see them as while they walked the earth. We won't know until our time comes what the afterlife will bring.

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  6. For sure that's the life of a priest. God doesn't overlook the good and the sacrifices any of us make - like being up at 2 A.M. with a teething baby, or working things out with a moody teenager, or having to be at the station at 6 A.M. to catch the red-eye. God overlooks nothing really. There's a Hassidic rabbi tale about a man who's salvation is won because he kindly flicked a bit of mud off the Sabbath coat of another whose cart had landed in the ditch. God's got a good eye - watching us not in suspicion but with a parental love and even appreciation and delight. Priests have inner lives like everyone else and that's where salvation is worked out. In the old catechism the question was: "Why does a man become a priest?" And the answer began: "To save his soul." So there are no guarantees about anything. In Dante's Inferno there is a scene from hell and the visitor asks, "Are there no priests here?" Where the priests are found is too outrageous to put up in this post. Remember the white washed tombs Jesus speaks of with regard to the Pharisees? Priests have to slog it out like everyone else. Through it all, all I want is to see Jesus and Mary on the other side. Thanks for writing. I enjoy the dialogues that follow posts too. I especially like that they're not nasty as in so many other cyber-places. Bless your day!

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