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.
Obviously, in His Majesty’s Kingdom, one rises by sinking; one increases by decreasing. Those who are most humble and self-denying most resemble the very character of our Beloved Redeemer. For they have renewed their minds and patterned them after the Mind of Christ, and thus possess that spirit of discernment, of knowing and welcoming intently, justly, carefully and humbly God’s eternal Word.
Our Order for the week is the reverse rendering of James 4:3, which reads, “When you ask, ask in accord with God’s Will.” In response to this Order, we are presented with the following directions:
1. The LORD calls us to discern our priorities in the Community. How much time are we devoting to those activities that promote spiritual growth, deeper love for the Word, and a closer relationship with the LORD? Do our priorities help us in raising an army of disciplined prayer warriors through worship, instruction and pastoral care?
2. The LORD calls us to discern the intentions of our hearts. Like any other community, we, too, have our own problems and concerns, but, in the words of James, where do wars and conflicts among us come from? What causes our disagreements and misunderstandings? Are we giving freely and fully of ourselves, loving, and serving one another? Are we exemplifying humility and the very character of Christ in our speech and actions?