Posts Tagged ‘new self’

MARK 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

In an ingenious use of irony Mark portrays the disciples bickering and debating their respective positions within the ranks – just after Jesus has disclosed to them the core teaching of his gospel. As the apostle Paul later understood, this “death and resurrection” event is not exclusive to Jesus but is the inner dynamic of salvation itself: dying to one thing (the old self, the part of us that asks wrongly) and being lifted into a higher, more integrated state (the new self).

Jesus speaks of the fate of every true follower of The Way, to be misunderstood by the world, persecuted, and betrayed; and wouldn’t you know it, but just over the next hill the disciples are already wrangling over who among them is the greatest!

When Jesus asks to know what they were talking about on the way, his disciples fall silent and sheepish, shuffling their feet and looking off in embarrassment. Sad thing is that they knew full well their behavior was in fundamental contradiction to everything Jesus taught and modeled to them. So why did they do it – why do we do it?

The answer must lie in the animal impulse that pushes up from deep in our biology and gets tangled in the obsessions, anxieties, and narcissism of the insecure ego. We can know something in our minds and have all passion for it in our hearts, but if our basic motivations are self-centered, these motivations and not the noble beliefs and affections we hold higher up will drive our behavior.

PSALM 22:25-31

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord.” The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in the story from Acts 8 was the external and ritual demonstration of an inner event of spiritual rebirth. Going under and emerging out of the water symbolized the death of the old self and the coming to life of the new. Whether this process of transformation was ritualized or not, a deep and universal belief among the religions is that salvation necessarily entails a break with the “old order” with all its habits and beliefs, so that life can find release and fulfillment at a higher level.

The psalmist envisions the day when all the peoples of Earth will repent (“turn around,” make a break) and come back to the one true God. It’s interesting that this turning is pictured as coming after a remembering, as if to say that our new life in God is not new at all but is rather something we once enjoyed, a long time ago.

The mystical traditions would go a step further and say that this communion with the Divine is the truth of our existence even now, as it always has been and will be. As our lives take us into the far-flung reaches of the world, our roots remain anchored in God as the ground of our being.