Monday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time
We all aspire to greatness. And there is nothing wrong about wanting to be great. Since we are made in God’s image and likeness, and our God is a great God, it is natural and praiseworthy for us to aspire to greatness. But Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading that greatness does not consist in making it big or in being big time or big shot. In fact, in Jesus’ eyes, the one who is least among us if the one who is the greatest.
So long as the disciples think of Jesus’ kingdom as an earthly kingdom it is inevitable that they will be in competition for the highest place in it. (William Barclay) Jesus knows what is going on in their hearts. He brings a child to sit beside him. That will be the seat of highest honor. He goes on to say, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
According to William Barclay’s commentary, what Jesus is saying is this: “If you are prepared to spend your life serving, helping, loving people who, in the eyes of the world, do not matter at all, you are serving me and serving God.” “If you are prepared to spend your life doing these apparently unimportant things and never trying to be what the world calls great, you will be great in the eyes of God.” In other words, for Jesus, greatness is the ability to see the needs of others and respond accordingly.
Certainly, this teaching is very hard for us to understand and to accept, precisely because it runs counter to what the world teaches us. Once again in this gospel passage, we discover how radically different Jesus’ views on life are from what we hear and see around us. We know that our society’s criteria of ‘greatness’ are wealth, power, status, popularity, prestige and vainglory. And that is why many are working to get these things.
But if we look deeper into enduring examples of greatness, we see the Lord is right:that the true great people are those who are willing to sacrifice and give up their lives for others. Albert Schweitzer said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones of you who will be happy are those who sought and found how to serve.”