Sunday Reflection: Weekend of 23 September 2018

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time| Year B

Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms around him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’


Jesus had a lot of formation work to do with his disciples, which he could not do in the presence of the crowds. The interest and awe of the crowds must have been heady stuff for the disciples, most of whom came from poor backgrounds. Their argument about who was the greatest among them showed that they still viewed Jesus as a potential earthly ruler.  Through this lens Jesus’ teaching about his future death and resurrection was very disturbing and difficult for them to grasp, as was his teaching about leadership.

In the disciples’ eyes, leadership – being the greatest –was the kind of leadership they experienced in their society. Leaders lorded it over others; they had many servants and great riches. The leader who was “last of all and servant of all” would have been another puzzling concept for the disciples.

The effectiveness of any organization depends upon its leader, but not only on the leader. All the people in the organization have a role to play. For the leader, being “servant of all” does not mean doing people’s jobs for them or acting as their assistant.

The leader who is truly “servant of all” empowers others in their roles, supports the use of their gifts, encourages them to contribute ideas, and provides what is needed so all the people in the organization can carry out their roles effectively.  The leader is a catalyst for the personal and professional development of those for whom he or she has responsibility.

Some leaders do tasks which others could do – and would be glad to do. This might happen because a leader is concerned about the workload of other people. It might also happen because the leader does not believe another person can do the task as well as he or she can, even though the task is not really one that belongs to the leadership role. In both these situations the leader takes on work that is not his or her own, which means there may not be enough time for the true leadership tasks. The solution is to be the “servant of all” and address the matter with the person concerned, finding sustainable ways to relieve their workload or upskilling them to do the task. 

We assist one another in our personal growth, including our spiritual growth. We are all servants of one another in this respect. But leaders who are responsible for others have a particular duty in this respect, a duty which is at the heart of true leadership.