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Greatest and Least among Us
Monday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, hold open my heart that I may receive you every day through your word. Help me to approach the throne of your grace worthily, free from serious sin and with the pure heart of a child. Amen.
- Status and Its Symbols: Remember the context of this passage: the disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest. Recall that each of these men was personally selected by Christ himself, committed to a new path of following the Lord. What a comforting reminder that no matter how blessed we have been or how much we believe ourselves to be devoted Christians, there will always (because of original sin) be a corner of our souls that is tempted to compare ourselves with others. Jesus knows, he sees, and he loves us anyway. Our sinful tendencies don’t disqualify us from fulfilling our God-given mission as long as we stay close to Jesus.
- Welcoming the Least: Jesus’ answer to the squabbling disciples was to show them a child. The one whose “status” God values most is the “least” among us. We are called to provide for and care for all those “least”: the children, the poor, the elderly, the sick. We do this best when we empty ourselves of our pride and our ego, and then turn our hearts to the Lord. He is then free to use our hands, feet, voice—our whole selves—to serve those in need.
- Forming Alliances: This passage could be summarized thus: the disciples bickered about which of them was the greatest; Jesus reminded them their duty was to the least; then John changed the subject (so he thought) and said, “We saw another guy trying to be as great as us, but we put a stop to that!” Jesus brought John (and us) right back to the topic at hand—our Christian obligation is to humbly serve the poor and the least among us. And in this effort, we are right to welcome assistance, for whoever is not against us is for us.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, you showed me a child and asked me to receive him in your name. Help me to see those least among us as those most in need of our compassion and charity. By your grace, help me to seek the help I may need to minister to those whom you would have me care for.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will, in some small way, die to myself in humility and obedience, and seek out ways to assist those in need.
For Further Reflection: From Lumen Gentium: “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility, and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and beginning of that Kingdom.”
Dorothy Warner is a Washington, D.C., area writer, who also works in technology and has a family. When not gardening, volunteering, or baking artisanal breads, she enjoys spending time with her husband, grown children, and a large collection of family pets.