Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Do you get it? A lot of people don’t. It seems the disciples, who were travelling through Galilee with Jesus and being taught by Jesus himself, weren’t getting it either. Jesus was teaching them that to accomplish what he was sent to do, he would be handed over to his enemies and killed…and rise on the third day. Mark tells us they didn’t understand. And, it seems they filled in the time by arguing about who was the greatest! I suppose many of us do something quite similar if we don’t like what we’re hearing. We refuse to understand and distract ourselves with something much less important.
But Jesus doesn’t think that what they’re talking about is not important. Rather, he takes their desire for greatness very seriously and sits them down and talks to them about what makes someone great. He says that to be first means to serve all the others. He goes on to say that their openness to a child is a measure of their openness to God Himself. I suspect that the disciples were a bit baffled by what Jesus said. It would be a safe bet that the disciples had something else in mind when they were talking about “who is the greatest.” And yet, Jesus models what he has been teaching by his self gift. He shows that greatness is about giving oneself for others.
So, let me come back to my first question. Do we get it? Often enough it seems that many of us do spend a lot of time and energy doing our best to climb to the top, accumulating as much as we can, and wanting others to see us as successful and significant people. Of course, as the disciples lived out their lives, they did, indeed, become great, especially by Jesus’ definition of greatness. Perhaps today, we can ask God to keep working on us and help us model our lives more on more on the life of Jesus.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.