Reflection 9/20: Keeping Our Eyes on Heavenly Things
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
There are three vectors running through our gospel this week. Jesus is teaching the apostles what they’ve made clear they don’t want to hear about, and that is about the messiah’s death and resurrection. Jesus is also trying to lay low to attract as little attention as possible from the crowds who have been following him wherever he goes. And Jesus is trying to mediate an argument among his apostles as to who is the most important. It’s a testament to divine patience that Jesus stayed on the path in spite of the obvious obstacles. His followers didn’t know, but Jesus was constantly on the way to Jerusalem, where he would face the culmination of his ministry.
Jesus tried to point out to his argumentative followers that it didn’t matter who was first or who was last. As he’s said more than once, “Put your mind on godly things, and not on human things.” What would being first have bought one of his disciples? Being the first to be martyred? Being the first to be stoned? Being the first thrown from a cliff, or from the parapet of the Temple? Jesus understood that being first was dangerous, inviting betrayal and the worst anguish imaginable. Even Jesus didn’t have the words to fully explain reality to his rag-tag crew of fishermen, farmers, and the unemployed. In their jockeying for position, they weren’t listening. Weren’t listening even to Jesus.
We forget where we are in the gospel story. Events, miracles, by-ways along the journey—they all pile up. This coming Sunday, we’re beyond the half-way point in Mark’s gospel. Even if no one else is paying attention, Jesus is deeply aware of each day and each mile that passes by. Consider, if we will, a look-back in history; looking back in a granular way at what people were doing right before the “event”: before the earthquake, the dam bursting, before the bomb went off. That “last-day-before …” is always a very normal day, until the clock or calendar goes one more—the next to the last—step. The final step is the cataclysm. How foolish we look when it’s discovered that all we could think of was our place in line. Jesus knew that keeping our eyes on heavenly things is always the best place to look because looking at earthly things will only upset us.
Jesus would know.