Summary: Do we know the way?
SEPTEMBER 22, 2000
·First Reading Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
·Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6-7
·Second Reading James 3:16-4:3
·Gospel Mark 9:30-37
As we continue our theme on Christian Discernment, we shall now focus on its definition and function in relation to the Cross and that ever-powerful virtue of humility, concluding, as usual, with some appropriate Community directions.
Discernment comes from the Latin word “discernere” meaning "to sift or distinguish." Interestingly, the Latin root has a very close correlation to the word for disciple, which is “discere” meaning "to learn or follow." A student cannot follow his teacher closely if he is not able to distinguish among the attributes he needs to emulate from those he must not. Discernment enables us to know what is from God and allows us to test every spirit and retain what is good, pleasing and acceptable to Him. Therefore, discernment, in simple terms, is following the ways of the LORD Jesus. It is following the ways of Master!
From its definition, discernment requires the willingness to learn, which, in turn, requires the virtue of humility. Psalm 29:5 says that the LORD leads the humble to what is right and teaches the humble His way. "Humility," by definition, comes from the Latin word "humus" meaning "fertile soil." Biblically, it is the ability to absorb the Word of God and bear fruit. Humility, then, empowers the Community to be fruitful in communion, in formation and in mission. Contrary to worldly standards, humility is not having a low self-esteem. According to the Word, it is the greatest accompaniment of honor and the avenue to glory.
This leads us to the opening scene of the Gospel, which pertains to the Glory of the Cross at Calvary. Regrettably, some Christians are offended by the image of our Savior on the Cross. To them, the Crucifix depicts the image of the Church-suffering instead of the Church-triumphant. However, to a Christian discerner, who welcomes the Word and looks at the Cross humbly, the Cross is the absolute embodiment and perfection of humility, victory and greatness. Because of the Cross, Paul tells us in Philippians 2:6-8 that the Father highly exalted the Son, meaning lifted up, to the greatest heights solely because of humility!
Failing to discern the Way of the Cross, the apostles foolishly argue instead on who amongst themselves is the greatest. Remarkably, however, our Servant-King, having discerned the thoughts of their hearts, does not rebuke their ambition! Instead of censure, our Blessed Teacher teaches them the way to greatness.
Our Divine Master says that greatness is attained, not by being first but by being the very last and servant of all (Mk. 9:35). Honor and prestige are not to him who sits at the head of the table, but to him who girds himself with the towel of humility and washes his servants’ feet (Jn. 13). Therefore, in response to the disciples’ aspiration to be masters, the Prince of Peace instructs them to be servants. For their aspiration to be great, our Wonderful Counselor instructs them to be humble. Then, Mark 9:36-37 says,"Taking a child He placed it in their midst, and putting His arms around it He said to them, ’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." Here, our Glorious Savior identifies Himself with a child, who, at such a tender age, does not have the slightest notion about ambition. Someone once said that the Gates of Heaven are quite low, and only children enter without any struggle. How then do adults enter? Only on bended knees; only in humility shall we enter. Hearts not filled with selfish and inordinate ambitions are clearly vessels of wisdom and righteousness.