Seeking Greatness?

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Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest


Luke 9:46-50

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, thank you for this time to reflect on your word. Help me to draw from it a message you have for me personally today. 


Encountering Christ: 

  1. The Disciples Argued: In retrospect, imagine listening in on what sounded like petty bickering among men who would become the first pope and pillars of the future church. That they were arguing, among all things, for a place of position seems outrageous knowing how holy these men eventually became. This incident speaks to the awesome and gratuitous transforming power of God! None of us deserve sainthood, but when we bend our hearts toward Jesus and follow in his footsteps, he graciously softens our hard edges, tames our restlessness, and stretches our capacity to love until we are able to love like he does. Then, the desire of the Father is fulfilled for us and we are made worthy, by his doing, to join him one day in heaven for all eternity. 
  2. Jesus Knew: Jesus “realized the intention of their hearts” and he concluded that the remedy was to place a small child in their midst. The disciples had succumbed to concupiscence, as we all do. Bishop Barron, quoting Thomas Aquinas, acknowledged we are primarily attracted to power, wealth, honor, or pleasure. “When we try to satisfy the hunger for God with something less than God, we will naturally be frustrated, and then in our frustration, we will convince ourselves that we need more of that finite good, so we will struggle to achieve it, only to find ourselves again, necessarily, dissatisfied,” he said. By placing a child in their midst, Jesus was trying to show the disciples what is most important to him: not power or status, but purity of heart. Jesus does the same for us, calling us over and over again through prayer and the sacraments to purify our intentions and seek him above all things.
  3. In Our Company: Moment by moment Jesus was dismantling his friends’ notion of what it means to be an apostle. They had assumed they were members of an exclusive club, wielding powers Jesus gave them for the good of mankind. Jesus reminded them that his love and powers are available to anyone who loves him in return, from a small child to a stranger expelling demons on the other side of town. As practicing Catholics, we might be tempted to fall into the trap of comparing our faith practices or our apostolic works to others’, instead of keeping our focus on Christ. He reminds us to draw our meaning and purpose from him alone.   



Conversing with Christ: Lord as I walk through my day, help me to be aware of times when I measure my worth by worldly standards instead of yours. Reorient me, just as you did the apostles. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will do a hidden act of service, making myself small out of love for you.


For Further Reflection: I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.


Sarah Nolan has an MSW in social work, and is a college advisor for high school boys and mother of three young boys. She lives in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, and is involved in Walking with Purpose at her parish.

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