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Twenty – fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The disciples had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. Would you believe it? For those of us of a certain age, our talk of being the greatest has echoes of world heavyweight boxing champion Mohammed Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, whose signature boast before and after each fight was, ‘ I am the greatest!’ The memory still makes me smile. In the case of these disciples of Jesus, however, there is something a bit pathetic about them arguing over which of them was the greatest. Mark underlines this sense of pathos with the question Jesus asks: What were you arguing about along the way? It is the kind of question that a parent or a teacher asks when it is abundantly clear that children have been up to no good.
Like shamefaced children, the disciples, silence gives the game away.
How appropriate then, that Jesus should choose a little child to place before them as he reinforces his lesson on self-importance with a memorable image and he embraces the child with real affection. Of course it is not just those original disciples that are being invited to learn the lesson. Mark regularly employs this technique in his gospel: the disciples get it wrong; Jesus invites them to think again. We might recall that in last Sunday’s scene Jesus rather sharpely told Peter, ‘Get behind me Satin!’ The way you think is not God’s way,’ As gospels readers, gospel hearers, it is we that are being offered a learning opportunity.