by Erik Ritland
The Word and the Church
Bible commentary following the Catholic Lectionary (which gives an overview of the entire Bible) by the Fully Alive staff
Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
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Mk. 9: 30-37
One gets the impression that St. James wasn’t too thrilled with the actions of the Christian community he was addressing in his letter.
After a series of harsh admonitions he gives some practical advice that is still relevant: “So submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (4:7-8).
Both submitting and resisting are actions that we each need to take to get closer to God – and further away from the Devil. Submitting to God is laying down our will to conform ourselves to him. We are called to do this even if it means saying no to things we might desire, such as disordered physical pleasures like casual sex, or saying yes to things we might not find appealing, like volunteering overnight at a homeless shelter. Our choices, whether we’re abstaining or acting, bring us closer to God or take us further away from him.
An attitude of humility is essential for us to become closer to God. The disciples learned this the hard way in today’s Gospel reading, as Jesus counters their argument about who among them is the greatest with these startling words: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Don’t let the radical quality of these words be dulled or lost. Jesus, who is God, shows us what God’s nature is by emptying himself and being a servant. Let that sink in, as this is as shocking of an idea today as it was 2,000 years ago.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. He is the lead staff writer and podcast host of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, which features commentary on music, sports, and an intellectual ragbag. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.