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Reflections on the Daily Readings
from the Perspective of Creighton Students

February 25th, 2014
Maria Benevento
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A few semesters ago, I was assigned a theology paper on the role of the disciples in the gospel of Mark.  I was supposed to investigate a number of specific passages and, as my professor planned, I quickly discovered a pattern in the disciples’ behavior.  Rather than being moral exemplars, they consistently misunderstand and disappoint Jesus. 

Today’s gospel reading presents a typical example of the disciples’ interaction with Jesus.  Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection, telling the disciples he plans to die what most would consider a shameful death, sacrificing himself for the salvation of humankind.  Since, unlike us, the disciples don’t know how the story ends, they don’t understand what Jesus means, and they decide not to even ask him.  Soon, they change the subject to the opposite of self-sacrifice, arguing about who is the greatest.

The disciples at least seem to understand Jesus well enough to know that he would disapprove of their conversation, since they don’t answer when he asks them about it.  However, the fact that they could have spent so much time in the presence of Jesus and still behave is ways completely opposed to his teaching amazes me. 

It’s easy to be jealous of the disciples’ direct experience of Jesus, especially since they didn’t always seem to take advantage of it.  I imagine that if I had actually met Jesus, I would better know how to follow him, and be inspired to do it more fully.  I start to wonder why such apparently clueless people got the opportunity instead.

However, the rebuttal of my excuse for falling short as a Christian is clear is this gospel.  I learn that I do know Jesus directly, because he says: 

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

With my excuse demolished, the failings of the disciples become a comfort rather than an annoyance.  Jesus didn’t demand “great” followers, he accepted sinners and helped them to do amazing things.  By the end of the gospel, these same disciples are proclaiming the good news at a personal risk and working miracles.  While the disciples compare their progress towards meeting standards of greatness, Jesus asks them to be humble and perform acts of service that are possible for almost anyone.

It can be easy to make even Christianity into a competition entered for reasons of pride, completely disregarding the teachings of Jesus even as I study him.  However, it can help to remember that the disciples had a similar problem.  We can both learn from their mistakes, and be consoled by Jesus’ willingness to accept and work with imperfect followers.

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