MAY 17, 2005-HOMILY: MARK 9:30-37
A MAN IS MARKED OUT AS GODíS ENEMY IF HE CHOOSES TO BE THE WORLDíS FRIEND. More than once Jesus proved to be highly disconcerting in his teaching, even to those who were most devoted to him. This proved to be the case for women as well as for men if we can judge from his words to Martha who had approached him with what she deemed an obviously reasonable request. Todayís Gospel depicts our Lord rebuking his closest companions for what seemed to them to be praiseworthy eagerness: to be the Masterís favorite, number one, at the top of the heap. This ambition, on the face of it, arises so naturally in us that we simply assume it is universal, if not as a conscious ambition, at any rate, as a deep-seated desire. In our own times, the heedless attitudes associated with such a drive have been described as rooted in our biological makeup and is of a chemical nature, being distinguished by the name of "The Selfish Gene".
Anyone who has observed and reflected on the negativity of a two year old child soon realizes that the sense of personal independence is acquired at the expense of our motherís loving patience. The outward expressions of this native self-centeredness is gradually tamed under the influence of civilizing discipline and interaction with loved ones. However, to the extent that we remain immature this child still lives within; consequently the inbuilt tendency to experience oneself as the center of the universe persists. It gives rise to a compulsion variously energetic and more or less hidden, to assert oneís value before the world, or, at any rate, before some one person who is sufficiently appreciated to represent the significant portion of the world we inhabit psychologically. These impulses arising from the deeper layers of our self are felt as a legitimate need of nature.
This self-centered disposition manifests itself under different guises according as circumstances and character offer apparent opportunities for achieving its gratification. Being in conflict with similar tendencies of other persons this compulsion regularly assumes a variety of forms, all of which have this in common, that they are in competition with every one else. Since only one can be first, all others are perceived as less deserving competitors. This fact means that such a need for recognition is a source of tension; it is potentially in conflict with anyone who may be more qualified than I to achieve the particular satisfaction I set before myself. As long as this tendency remains unacknowledged, even unrecognized, by our self, it exerts its influence, even when we consciously strive to serve others with the best of intentions. Once it comes to awareness it can be evaluated and confronted in light of the values we wish to live by and the goal we set as giving meaning to our existence. But we must first see it for what it is: the undeveloped childish need to have our worth affirmed by another
The Lord takes the occasion offered by the apostles dissension to cure their false way of dealing with the all too human desire to be first. Look at the child who can accept the love offered with a return of trust and affection and is satisfied, at peace with what is given. But receive what is offered from the one source that can, throughout life, provide all the recognition you require. Believe and trust that the Father knows, loves and appreciates you as the unique person you are. . Become what you are made to be: the beloved child of the Eternal Father, created in the image of his Son, who loves you and gave himself for you on the cross to remake you in his likeness.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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