Who Will Choose the Son?


Who Will Choose the Son?

September 19, 2021 | N W | Discipleship, Faith, Father Nixon, Humility, Love, Mission, Service, Strength

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 19, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Wis 2:12, 17-20 / Ps 54 / Jas 3:16-4:3 / Mk 9:30-37
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

Who is above all of us?  Who is the most powerful?  Who is the most respected?  In today’s gospel, this is what the apostles were arguing about.  As Jesus spoke of His coming pain, the disciples insisted on exaggerating themselves.

Our gospel today reminds me of a beautiful story that moved me.  It is about a wealthy man and his son, who loved to collect rare works of art.  They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael.  They often would sit together at night and admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son courageously enlisted and went to war.  He died in a battle while rescuing another soldier.  His father was notified, and he deeply grieved at the death of his only son.

About a month after his son’s death, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.  He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life.  He saved many lives that day, and while he was carrying me back to safety, a bullet struck him in the heart, and he died instantly.”  The young soldier continued, “He always spoke of your love for art.  I have brought you something I painted.  I know it is not much, but I think your son would have wanted you to have it.”

The father opened the package.  It was a portrait of his son.  He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting.  The father was so drawn to the eyes, that his own eyes welled up with tears.  He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.

“Oh, no, Sir.  I could never repay what your son did for me.  It’s a gift,” replied the soldier.

The father hung the picture over the mantel.  Whenever visitors came to the home, he took them to see the portrait of his son first, and then to the other great works he had collected.

The father died a few months later.  A great auction was held for all the works of art.  Many influential and famous people gathered, excited over the paintings, and the opportunity to purchase one for their own collection.  On the auctioneer’s platform sat the portrait of the son.  The auctioneer pounded his gavel.

“We will start the bidding with this picture of the son.  Who will bid $200 for this picture?”  There was silence.

A voice from the back shouted, “We came for the famous paintings.  Just skip this one.”

Others chimed in, “We didn’t come for this painting.  We came for the Rembrandts and Van Goghs.”

The auctioneer shouted, “The son, the son, who will bid on the son?”

The crowd was becoming noisy, and some were booing the auctioneer.  Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room.

“I give $10 for the painting.”  It was the gardener of the man and his son.  Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.

“We have a $10 bid,” said the auctioneer.  “Who will give me $20?”  The crowd became angry.  They shouted, “Give the man the painting of the son for $10, and get on with the true works of art!”

The auctioneer pounded his gavel.  “Going once….going twice…Sold for $10!”

“Now let’s get on with the real collection,” a man in the front shouted.

The auctioneer laid down his gavel.  “I’m sorry, the auction is over.  When I was told to conduct this auction, I was given a secret stipulation of the will.  I was not allowed to reveal it until this time.  Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.  Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including all the paintings.  The man who took the son gets everything.”

This story is a modern-day parable of the message we hear in today’s gospel passage.  This passage from Mark is the third prediction Jesus made concerning His death and resurrection.  We heard the first prediction in last Sunday’s gospel:  Mark 8:27-34.   When Peter correctly answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

But then, when Jesus explains, “The Son of Man will have to suffer, be put to death on the cross, then rise three days later, Peter argued with the Lord, “Lord, may this never happen to You.”  So, Peter and the apostles did not yet understand what Jesus’ mission involved.

Mark’s gospel then proceeds with Jesus saying that those who wish to be His disciples must pick up the cross and walk in His footsteps daily.  (Mark 8:34) “And the man who loses his life for My sake will find it, and those who try to preserve their lives will lose them.”

We can see the regression on the part of the apostles every time Jesus predicts his approaching death and resurrection.  From Peter’s arguing with Jesus to the questioning among themselves, to today’s reaction.  Though they failed to understand His words, they were afraid to question Him.  They found it hard to accept that the Son of Man will have to suffer first, before He is glorified.

The great paradox of today’s gospel is that, while Jesus is predicting that the Son of Man will suffer, lay down His life in humility and rejection for the sake of others, the apostles are arguing among themselves over which of them is the greatest.  Jesus has tried to show that the path to greatness is the path of selflessness, humility, and service, especially to the little ones, who represent the poor and the forgotten.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are like the apostles and want to share in the glory, the thrill of the crown, the warm glowing feelings that come from recognizing God’s blessing.  But the question is, Do we also embrace the suffering and crosses in our lives?  Do we seek the path of humility and service, especially to the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable?  Do we embrace the little ones in our lives?  Or do we brush them aside and forget the poor, the mentally ill, the disabled?  Do we imitate Jesus and serve the needs of others, especially the poor?

In many cases, like the attitude of the apostles, we want to be recognized as the best, the most famous, or the richest among our friends or among our community.  To prove ourselves to others, many times we brag about our looks, about our abilities, or our properties, or the things that we have done, or the things that we own.  If we can excel, we can then be proud.  If someone is better than us, we may immediately become jealous and envious.

Through the Gospel, the apostles and all of us, followers of Christ, are warned that the material things that we boast about on earth are worthless in Heaven.  Before God, the only measure is how much love we have shown.  Any of you who wants to be the greatest must humble himself and serve everyone.  In the eyes of God, the man who is most praiseworthy is the man who is humble and serves everyone.

That’s why a lawyer who defends the oppressed is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.  A doctor who takes care of patients who cannot pay, or who have no insurance, is great in the eyes of God.  A teacher who patiently teaches the students who have difficulty in learning is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.  A politician who values life and acts for the welfare of the poor and the helpless is great in the Kingdom of God.  A son or daughter who is obedient and respectful of their parents is great in God’s Kingdom.

These are the things that will make us great in God’s Kingdom.  And let us not forget what John Hagee once said, “The measure of a man’s greatness is not the number of servants he has, but the number of people he serves.”

So, again, who are these people that we need to serve?  Our gospel tells us Jesus took a child and said, “Whoever receives a child like this in My name, receives Me.  Whoever receives Me, receives not only Me, but Him who sent Me.”

The apostles at this point in their lives are like bidders in the opening story, who came to the auction.  They are interested in power, status and prestige.  They fail at first to comprehend the paradox that the way of Jesus, the way of humility, service, and self-denial, is the path to greatness.  The inheritance is ours if we follow His path of humble service.

The moral of the opening story and today’s gospel is the same:  God gave us His only Son.  The Son rescued many people by laying down His life.  The Father’s will is that we will choose the Son and His humble servant ways.  Much like the auctioneer, the message of God is: The Son, the Son, who will take the Son?  The one who chooses the Son is the one who walks the humble path of the cross.  He is the one who will inherit everything. Those who seek after the riches, power, and prestige of this world will go away empty-handed.  The Son, the Son, who will follow my Son?  The one who follows the way of Jesus will inherit everything.

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