“Services Lead to Salvation”

Embrace wisdom from above and it shall lead you to understanding of the way and the means to salvation through service to others.

The gospel of today (Mark 9: 30-37) narrates the second incident when Jesus teaches his close followers in private. Earlier he told them that he was going to die in the hands of the chief priests, Pharisees and Scribes and that he was going to rise from the dead. The apostles did not want to hear the information about his imminent death. Again Jesus tells them that he was going to die.

His ambitious close followers argued among themselves about who was to occupy the position of power. They misunderstood Jesus as one who had come to establish an earthly kingdom. He would have soldiers to protect him by force of arms; his servants would wash his clothes, cook for him and run before him; like Ahab, he could take the best of their fields and make then his own. The apostles looked forward to a good time in the kingdom of Jesus and so sought to occupy high positions. This was far from the mission of Jesus.

Jesus had to correct their thinking when they were by themselves in the house in which they lodged. Earlier he spoke about his death in public, this time he instructed them in private. They were afraid to ask Jesus what he meant by his coming death but Jesus dared to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They were excited about who would be the number one citizen and Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”

Allow me to move away from the topic a little bit in order to help us understand the matter of “first” and “last.” In the thinking of the Jews of old, when there is a first it means others of the same will follow – thus the first is not the most important but the last. May be this is why when we have dances many do come late to unconsciously show their importance; brides come late because “ today is your day and so they have to wait for you;” and when the president or chairman arrives at many a meeting then and only then proceedings can begin. Could this be the reason why sometimes we (in authority) deliberately come late at very important occasions? This is not the “last of all” that Jesus meant rather he meant a humble person who is prepared to serve others.

Jesus himself had said he has come to serve in various parts of the New Testament: “The son of has come among you not to be served, but to serve and give his life for many” (Mark 10: 42 and 45); “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke. 22:27); and “You call me Master and Lord, and rightly so I am I have washed your feet like a servant” (John 13:13). This clearly indicates that it is through service to others that we earn positions of respect and authority. It leads to so many benefits to our communities and society at large.

Let us turn to the second reading (James 3:16 – 4:3) to see what benefits our communities and society gain when we make our own the wisdom that comes from God. We will have peace, harmony, purity; we will care for each other and have compassion for one another; we will be a community that prays together. Wisdom that does not come from God leads to wars. Other times it brings about a society where we seek to pull the other person down so that we can go up the social ladder. It leads to undue search for achievement of one’s selfish ambition – even if it means killing the other. St. James points that we need to pray for our needs. At times we do not gain what we pray for because either we have not prayed well or what we pray for would not be of benefit to us or society.

Let us conclude by reflecting on the first reading of today (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20). We see how wicked people (who lack wisdom from God) plot to bring down the good person. The good person exposes the evil in them. In our society of today we set up a network of surveillance so as to monitor what the good person does, says and where the good person goes – all in a bid to bring the good person down in disgrace. Such comes from evil intentions deep in our hearts. These are very strong words and I have no regrets about it because we make and unmake people.

We can make a difference when accept that our salvation lies in being humble and our honest and committed service to our families, communities, society and the world at large.

May God bless us all. Amen.