25th Sunday in Ordinary Time reflection by Rachel Espinoza
As schools open up again this Fall, I’ve found myself reflecting on my past teachers. Just the other day I heard a song that my beloved fourth grade teacher had taught me, and it immediately brought me back to her classroom and the way she made me feel. I thought of her - and of many others who made a lasting impact on my life. I remember other teachers who at times resorted to rather humorous or unconventional teaching methods to help us overcome gaps in our learning. Even when I or my classmates weren’t at our best, the best teachers found creative ways to communicate the essential lessons of life to us.
On this Catechetical Sunday, a day on which we especially recognize the service of those involved in the work of catechesis (teaching the faith), it is fitting that our Gospel reading points us to Jesus the master Teacher. In fact “teacher” is the most common title applied to Jesus throughout the Gospels!
Today we meet Jesus as he tries to explain to his disciples (students) about how his mission will lead him down a path involving suffering, death, and resurrection. Here, He’s attempting to prepare them for all that lies ahead, but also to communicate that in his upside-down kingdom, glory doesn’t come from political power or earthly prestige. Unfortunately, the disciples weren’t the brightest students, and really missed the message. They simply didn’t get it, and their lack of understanding is further exemplified by the conversation they have on the way immediately after Jesus spoke with them, in which they are arguing about who was the greatest among them.
What Jesus had been trying to tell them - the whole message of the Cross is that the way to glory is not one of power and prestige, but by self-emptying love. Those who seek to follow him as disciples can’t be concerned with one-upmanship or desire for power, but must seek the way of humility and service.
Like any good teacher (when their students don’t grasp the core of the lesson they’re trying to get across), Jesus tries to get through to them using another method. First, he tells his disciples: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” After this, he brings a child into their midst, places his arms around the child, and says, “Whoever receives one such child such as this in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” With this concrete example placed right before him, they finally begin to get what Jesus is saying: If you wish to become great in God’s kingdom, you have to take the lowest place, you must seek to serve, rather than to be served. You must concern yourself not with striving for attention from the high and mighty of the world, but with opening your arms to embrace the little ones - children, the poor, the marginalized.
There are many lessons which Jesus wants to teach us - but so often we’re not his best and brightest students. And yet, he is infinitely patient with us, and offers us countless opportunities to grasp the core of his saving message. Let’s pray for all those who have the task of transmitting the message of Jesus (catechists) today, and for ourselves to be able to receive and live out the teachings of Jesus.