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Reading: Luke 9.46-50
An argument arose among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’
John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’
We are called into a life of faith in God, a life of Christian love and service. Having said that we are all human, and we all have the very human capacity to make things more complicated than God intends. When we try to add layers of subtle interpretation that God never intended we come to the moment when we sin. We sin by thinking that we know better than God. We sin and, in sinning, we distance ourselves from the God who loves us.
Today’s reading opens with a brief description of an argument that had arisen between the disciples. We might imagine the disciples as a blessed company of men who had been called into an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus. Of course that is true, but they are also human beings, and all human beings get it wrong. We all love to impose our own sense of structure and meaning on our lives; very few of us are any good at letting God take that burden off our shoulders. Then, as we try to organize our lives for ourselves, we begin to add other layers of meaning, such as hierarchy and influence. God calls us to rest and rejoice in his presence, we insist on complicating matters with our very flawed human sense of relationship and justice.
Of course, Jesus is aware of the problem and he rebukes his disciples in the simplest of ways. He brings a child to the fore and tells his disciples that by welcoming everyone as though they were a child, that is not with some complicated political, sociological or emotional agenda, they are drawing closer to God.
This sounds simple but, sadly, it isn’t! Immediately we hear John criticizing someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, but who is not one of the ‘inner circle’. With this brief exchange Jesus hammers the message home: whoever is not against you is for you – even if they follow Jesus in a different way.
Today we are challenged to set aside our spurious need for status and superiority. As we are called to be faithful followers of Christ, let us pray that we may follow in simple faith, faith that is rooted in Christ alone.