Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion was not a surprise for those who paid attention. His Passion and Crucifixion were predicted in prophesies throughout the Old Testament, and even by Jesus himself. The Gospel reading from St. Mark today was Jesus’ second prediction of his Passion. But the world did not pay attention.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
In the first reading from the Old Testament book of Wisdom, we hear a foreshadowing of Jesus’ Passion.
“With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
Why was Jesus tortured and killed? As Wisdom tells us,
The wicked say:
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, ….
Wickedness and sin killed the “Just One”, Jesus.
Then St. James presents us with a stark discussion of sin and wickedness.
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.
Sin affects all of us. If we say we have not sinned, then we blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. We are all sinners. Sin makes us numb. Sin is desensitizing and progressive. Gradually we become tolerant and comfortable with sin. Just look at our national lack of action against the sin of killing and dismembering babies in the womb. We even subsidize the activities with our taxes.
We see the way sin affected Jesus’ disciples. Here was Jesus teaching them about his coming passion. He had taken them apart by themselves so that he could have their undivided attention. However, they were still men of the world. Their own ambition and jealousy were more important to them.
… he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.
Clearly, they were not yet ready to lead Jesus’ Church. They had not yet chosen to serve him and follow him and to turn their backs on the ways of the world.
Perhaps there is no better test of whether a person is a Christian, than by that person’s understanding of leadership. In fact there is a stark divide between worldly, secular views of leadership and Christian leadership.
Secular, worldly leadership emphasizes ambition and passion for leadership and power. Selfish ambition is tolerated and expected in secular leadership. Just look at the current Presidential debates.
Jesus, on the other hand, immediately and directly challenges these ambitious desires of the disciples, saying,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
This is not secular leadership. The world would not understand this form of leadership of innocence.
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“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.”
This week we will witness the arrival of Pope Francis in our country. Watch closely how he will teach us by his example to be merciful and to know Jesus’ mercy. Watch carefully how he will stand face-to-face with the powerful in our country and world and speak God’s truth to them. They will not understand him, because they don’t understand the “Just One”. They all arrived at their positions of power through selfish ambition. They will test him. He will arrive like a little child, a man of service, a servant. He will teach our leaders about the truth of marriage and the value of a child’s life. But he will appear obnoxious to our leaders, because he sets himself against our doings and will reproach them and us for our transgressions against the most helpless, and our distortions of God’s law. Pope Francis will come as a prophet, and may be treated like a prophet.
The wicked, the worldly don’t treat prophets of God very well.
Pray with me for our Pope this week, and for our families and our nation.