BRAGGING RIGHTS (Mark 9:30-37): 20 September 2009 (Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
In the more secular world of the Internet, everyone seems to be talking about what happened at last Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Country singer Taylor Swift had just won Best Female Video, and the nineteen-year old singer was really overjoyed because it was her first time to win the award. In the middle of her speech, hip hop singer, Kanye West, stormed the stage, grabbed her mike, interrupting her speech, and announced something like: “I’m happy for you, Taylor, but I think Beyonce’s video is the best!” Kanye was booed and got off the stage, while poor Taylor, unable to complete her speech, was led away, still looking stunned.
Your disciples arguing about who among them is the greatest reminds me of this competitive world we live in and our obsession with being the best. Kanye West is but an extreme example. I’m not sure if it’s something about our society today, or maybe something more fundamental–like being human and needing approval, if not, admiration–life sometimes lapses into a race for bragging rights. It’s a phenomenon evident in different areas of our lives–certainly in our work, but also in our social lives!
But as the Gospel story shows today, we’re not exempt from it in our spiritual lives either. It seems that even those committed to following you can end up in the same trap. Even in the realm of discipleship, we at times want to outdo one another and be considered the “greatest.” Some of us try our best at distinguishing ourselves in our devotions; others work hard at outshining others in terms of service. These are all good in themselves, but once we grow more concerned with ourselves and how we fare, that’s the moment we lose sight of you.
Today you remind us that if we want to be first, we have to be last.
Cute. But what does it mean exactly?
Reading the question in your disciple’s mind, you called for a child and wrapped your arms around it, then you tell your disciples: “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.”
For us to understand what you mean, I think we can go back to the VMAs. Late that evening, many awards later, Beyonce was called on stage to receive the final and most coveted award, Video of the Year, for her “Single Ladies.” But instead of keeping that moment all to herself and hugging the limelight, she called Taylor Swift back on stage to allow the younger singer to finish her interrupted acceptance speech.
It was one helluva classy act. By graciously stepping out of the limelight in order to share it with another, she showed who the real winner was that night.
Lord, help us to un-condition ourselves from our obsession with honor and approval. Amen.
Note: Watch a news report on the VMA incident.