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.’
Today’s reading resonates with the way so many people live out their daily lives. The disciples have been arguing about which one of them should be considered the greatest. Then John complains to Jesus that someone, who is not one of Jesus’ chosen twelve, is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Even as they walked with Jesus, the disciples were already displaying the signs of those traits which have caused so many rifts and disputes between those who claim to be followers of Christ.
As ‘Christians’ invent ways of carrying on which endorses their positions of influence and power, we would all do well to heed the words of Jesus that lie at the heart of today’s reading: … the least among all of you is the greatest. Jesus’ words are unequivocal. Jesus tells us to stop wasting our energies on trying to dominate the lives of others. It is not for us, as individuals, to decide on that which is ‘good’ and ‘commendable’. Such matters should be left to God alone. Our role in the order of creation is to love and serve one another in all humility.
Humility is a difficult concept for many. Whether in family life, in our working lives or in our more general social settings, we like to be seen as the ‘top dog’, the one who everyone looks up to. But … such an attitude does nothing other than distance us from God.
Time and again I hear people speaking of the need for more young people to be engaged in the life of the Church. Then, those same people do the best they can to alienate any ‘young people’ who do happen to stray into a Church. The children are sent to sit in a corner with a box of old toys. The parents of those same children are made to feel inadequate if their children do not play quietly, without disturbing the important things that are happening elsewhere in the building. Why should those ‘young people’ ever come back?
Today, Jesus takes a child, a young person who has no social status, and says: Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Jesus is very clear indeed. Stop working at building up our own reputations and power bases, and start working towards becoming the humble, loving and serving follower of Christ that is the calling of us all.
Let us pray that we might live our days in humility and Christian joy. Let us pray that we might set aside our ‘need’ for importance and power. Let us pray that we might truly join the company of Christ’s faithful people on earth.