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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
(Part 143)

AUTHENTIC SERVANT LEADERSHIP – 3

September 23, 2018
Today’s gospel: Mark 9:30-37


The apostles “had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” (v.34b). This is the case with many spiritual leaders today. They are focused on power, position and prominence, both personally and in the work they do and in the groups they lead. Jesus then makes it clear to them what is authentic servant leadership. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (v.35b). The leader is the one who is first, at the top of the heap, leading others. It is all right to wish to be first, that is, a leader, since leaders are needed by Jesus to care for the flock and to do his work. So it is OK to desire to serve the Lord, and if that be as a leader, then let it be so. But then, one must understand the meaning of such service. The first is the last, and the leader is the servant of all.

Jesus then points to a child. “Taking a child he placed it in their midst” (v.36a). A child had no rights in the society at the time. Further, a child had no power, position or prominence. He was totally dependent on others. Jesus is pointing to the qualities of a child as a model for servant leaders. A child is humble, obedient, subservient, formable, has no pretenses, is not into power trips, does not maneuver for position, does not seek prominence, does not bring others down to advance its own cause.

Further, service in the Kingdom is especially to the poor, the weak and the lowly. The child was a symbol for the anawim, the poor in spirit, the lowly in the Christian community, the powerless in society. Jesus came poor, lived poor, and died poor. “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me” (v.37a). Serving the poor is serving Jesus.

There is one more thing. The apostles were arguing among themselves just some time after Jesus told them for the second time about his coming passion. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him” (v.31b). The apostles “did not understand the saying” (v.32a). They could not appreciate that their Master would be treated so lowly and so badly. Was he not the Messiah? Their paradigm was all wrong. They could not grasp that the first could be the last, that the leader would be the servant, that greatness would be in ignominy.

Being a servant. Being a child and receiving a child. Suffering and even death. Such is the lot of the authentic servant leader. Be a child and experience Jesus “putting his arms around (you)” (v.36b). Follow the path of Jesus, the suffering servant, and hear Jesus say, “whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (v.37b). Be useful to God, do the will of God, and be pleasing to God. Be poor and lowly, as you serve the poor and lowly.

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