This week we hear some familiar words from Jesus. In response to the disciples arguing who among them is the greatest, Jesus does this:
He took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mark 9:30-37)
The disciples are afraid of a lot of things: they are afraid when Jesus predicts his suffering and death, which he will also do on Sunday; they are afraid probably of suffering and dying with him; and they are afraid of not having status and honour – they argue about who is the greatest among them. You became great in the ancient world by associating with those who were great and who were powerful and rich and important. You lost status and honour by associating with those who were of low estate, like children, who had absolutely no status at all. Yet Jesus suggests that in God’s reign, in God’s kingdom, you gain status by associating with those the world considers having no status. This is another instance of the upside down way Jesus looks at the world.
Jesus suggests that the antidote to fear – which the disciples clearly have – is faith. Not faith in the sense of intellectually believing or assenting to certain ideas, but faith as willingness to be proactive and taking a small step forward in spite of doubt and fear. Welcoming a child. Giving a cup of cold water to a stranger. Embracing the outcast. Serving others. Opening yourself to another’s need. Small everyday things that are open to everyone.
Take a moment and think about what it is you’re afraid of. What worries you and weighs you down? Where is the seat of your anxiety?
And what, on the other hand, is a faithful action you might undertake to counter that fear? It doesn’t have to be something directly related to the fear, for being proactive in faith helps dispel fear all round.
On Sunday I’ll reflect on this further. Come and hear the good news: God is acting and is at work, maybe not dispelling all our fears, but enabling us not to be overwhelmed by them, enabling us to move forward in faith anyway. It is such a positive Gospel message this week!