There is no doubt that there are many people who are looking for work. I heard of a potential employer who is finding a new strategy for hiring. At a university in the United States a position needed to be filled and the hiring committee was down to four candidates. All of them were found to have great resumes and good references. The people on the committee wanted someone who would listen well, who would be a good example of Christian values, and who was not afraid of long hours.
An unusual suggestion was made to find this candidate. One member of the committee was sent to each of the current job site of each candidate to interview a person who would give an unbiased opinion on the qualities of each candidate. Who did you think they chose to interview? It was the custodian or janitor of the institution where they were working at the current time. These are the questions that were asked. Did the person in question speak to you with care and compassion? Did the person know your name? Did the person in question talk too many of the people in the building or did the person always walk past you?
The candidate that cared about everyone, including the janitor, was the one the university hired. They figured out that if the prospective candidate was not interested about being first, but cared about the people he or she worked with, was the person they wanted to hire.
The Gospel of Mark is very interesting. I want to review what happened in previous verses to give you a better understanding of the disciple's behavior in today's reading. A few days before, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain where he could be alone with them. There Jesus became transfigured: his clothes became dazzling white. Elijah and Moses appeared to them. A voice from the clouds was heard that said, "Listen to Him". As they were walking down from the mountain Jesus told them to tell no one about what they had seen. Having this extreme experience was overwhelming to the disciples. Naturally several thought that Jesus must be favoring them with this vision and they probably began to assume that Jesus must love them the best.
They then joined the other disciples and Jesus began teaching them again about how they were to do ministry. A man brought his son who had an epileptic demon within him. The disciples tried to heal the boy but they could not. Jesus was angered by the disciple's inability to heal and chastised them. Then Jesus talked to the boy's father. Through the faith of the father the boy was healed.
Jesus had to give more instruction to the disciples about using prayer to cast out demons.
Jesus had something very important on his mind when the group made their way through Galilee, away from the crowd. He begin to tell his followers that the "Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men and will be put to death. In three days he (Jesus) will rise from the dead". Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going to die. The disciples were afraid and did not ask any questions. Losing Jesus in such a violent way made them of fearful that they did not even consider ministering to Jesus or trying to comfort him. Fear prevented them from consoling Jesus and allowing them to have his words of instruction sink in. Where was their compassion and love for Jesus as he told them of his upcoming death?
What happened next is almost impossible to imagine. They began to argue among themselves about which one was the greatest instead of listening to the man who loved them. They showed no apparent care and concern for Jesus and showed no compassion for him as he talked about his approaching death.
After they reached a house in Capernaum Jesus asked them what they were arguing about on the road. No one answered him because they knew they were guilty about what they had done. They were also shamed because they realized that they had not comforted Jesus. In spite of the great pain of Jesus he had to treat the disciples like children and educate them that in order to become first they must become last as a servant is last in a household. I am sure Jesus was shaking his head when he realized that after all of the time he had spent with him they still did not know what it meant to serve.
It was then that Jesus lifted up a small child and said, "Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me". In our society, children and women are not valued as much as adult men. It is the women who primarily watch over children and take care of them. But this is changing. The amount of single family homes with women in charge is growing. So many children do not have a good chance in life because the children are not welcomed and cherished. It is so important to think about what Jesus said, "Anyone that does not welcome a child does not welcome me".
I would venture another statement that was not said in the Gospel today. Do we as adults value all the people we meet as we do a little child? Do we go out of our way to greet and listen to the people in our lives knowing we are greeting Jesus our Savior? Or do we stop listening to people who talk to us because what they are saying frightens us or we are afraid that what they are saying might happen to us? I remember a time in my life when my daughter was a victim of domestic violence. I was terrified and afraid. When I told some of my friends about what was happening in our family they did not want to listen and they did not want talk to me again. That continued for many years. Since then I always make it a point to listen to whatever people tell me.
In the beginning of my homily I talked about how the hiring committee sent a member to interview the janitors about all of the candidates. Would Jesus approve of the way we interact with all the people we meet? Maybe Jesus wants to add another job or task for us to do to become a servant to more people. You never know, anything is possible.