I AM THE GREATEST!
This is what the disciples were arguing about as they walked along. Jesus was talking about suffering and dying and rising again but, as they had no clear idea what he was talking about, they stuck with something that seemed more important to them. Jesus was the messiah so there would be a new kingdom of God and they would be the inner circle, the trusted lieutenants. They would have power and the respect that comes with the holders of power.
Was it only the men in the group who were arguing or were the women who accompanied Jesus and provided for him out of their own resources in on the argument?
As I thought about this incident I was not surprised that members of a group would be jockeying for position or proclaiming that they were better than any of the others. What intrigued me and still does intrigue me is what criteria were they using to support their claim about who was the greatest. Jesus had sent them out to cast out demons, heal the sick and announce the nearness of the kingdom of God. Were they comparing scores about the number of demons cast out, the number of sick healed, the size of the crowd they preached to? If it wasn’t something as crass as that were they arguing who was closest to Jesus, who was his favourite? You can hear them saying in the way children do: he loves me more than you. He listens to me more than you. He chose me before he chose you. He wants us to fish for people so as a fisherman I am better.
Whatever were the criteria for their comparisons, they were motivated by selfishness and ambition. They were like children squabbling among themselves. The argument showed they were centred completely on themselves. In terms of the mission that they would be called on to fulfil after Jesus was gone this type of thinking had to be eradicated smartly.
Jesus enlisted the help of a child. Was this little one part of the family with whom they were staying over night? Was he or she a child of one of the disciples? Did their families travel with them? The defusing message Jesus delivered to the disciples was that anyone who welcomes a child like this welcomes Jesus himself. Children in the time of Jesus were important for what they would provide in the future after they had grown and were able to support aging parents, but as children they had little value. They were to be seen and not heard. No one spoke then of children having rights. But Jesus identifies himself with one without value and without power and commands his friends to see the world in a new way. Those judged without power or worth are the ones He identifies with.
It is a command that we disciples in the 21st century still need to hear and take to heart. Our greatness is to be measured by the service we give to those judged by society to be without value. Those who in a consumer society live by planned obsolescence find themselves all too easily judging human beings by the same yardstick—you have gone past your use-by date so can be disposed of or your views are not worth taking into account. As we do here in our parish we are stewards placed here to serve others with our time, treasure and talent. Greatness is measured not by what we grasp to ourselves and the trappings of power we adorn ourselves with, but by the life-giving service we show others.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Oct 7, 2015||25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20.09.2015||Listen||Download|