Reflecting on the Gospel for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Mark by Mary Healy, comnenting on Mark 9:35:

Jesus sits, the customary posture for a teacher in the ancient world (see 4:1), and calls the Twelve around him for a further lesson on discipleship. For those appointed to leadership in the community Jesus is founding (3:13・15), there is all the more need to preclude a false idea of authority. If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. To be first means to have priority over others, as for instance the “leading men of Galilee” (literally, the “firsts of Galilee” in 6:21) had more influence, prestige, and power than ordinary folk. Jesus does not condemn the innate desires for grandeur in the human heart. But he turns human thinking on its head: the only way to fulfill these desires, paradoxically, is to put oneself last in priority. And this is not merely a pious thought; it must be expressed in concrete actions, by becoming a servant (diakonos) of all. This was a radically unconventional idea in the ancient world, where humility and meekness were viewed not as virtues but as signs of weakness. Those in authority should expect to be served and showered with honors. No one in their right mind would aspire to be a servant. The early Church’s embrace of this new ethic was part of what made Christianity so novel and attractive to many in the ancient world. The same principle is expressed by St. Paul to the believers at Philippi: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3・4; see 1 Pet 5:3).

© 2008 Mary Healy and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


  1. frances farrugia says:

    this is very true. to stand at the end when you are supposed to stand in front is contradictory to the culture where i live and serve as a missionary. it is perseverance that might one day change the point of view as understood in a culture where a servant is as good as a dog, to be kicked and insulted. but here we resist this temptation in order to be doers of the Gospel. Thank you for the inspiration renewed.

  2. thanks for the insight. may God continue to enlighten your heart for the world and may our Lady continually intercede for you, amen.