Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

25th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: JESUS' TEACHING ON GREATNESS

Mk 9:30-37

 

THE GOSPEL PASSAGE this Sunday is about Jesus’ second prediction of His passion. Jesus has been trying to educate His disciples about His impending fate in Jerusalem. In the first prediction, Peter had heard it clear from Jesus, and as soon as Jesus spoke about it, Peter rebuked Jesus because he had a different understanding of what the Messiah is. In the face of the other disciples, Jesus reprimanded Peter because he was “not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

In this second prediction, it appears that the disciples did not bother to listen to Jesus, and thus, they failed to understand what Jesus said about his impending passion. On the contrary, they were squabbling over who is the greatest among them. Thus, when Jesus confronted them, they were a kind of embarrassed; for they remained silent.

Jesus then used the occasion to give the disciples a proper guidance, and to explain to them the essence of true greatness. I find that this teaching of Jesus also applies to us because greatness is everyone’s aspiration. Who among us here who does not want to be remembered as someone who is great? Certainly, fathers want to be remembered by their children as “great fathers;” mothers as “great mothers.” The same is true to students, professors, office managers, presidents, and leaders. Indeed, we really want to be great!

Now, let us reflect on the teachings of Jesus on ‘Christian greatness’:

Firstly, the key to greatness is service. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  As we see it, this goes against the conventional wisdom because “great people” are actually being served. People may feel great when they just sit down as others serve them. But for Jesus that is not greatness. True greatness can be found in service. This is hard to understand because in a “master-servant” relationship, each is placed on two different and opposing poles. It is the servant who serves his master, and not the other way around.

However, experience tells us that Jesus is correct. For example, leaders (civil or church leaders) are not best remembered for the doctoral degrees they have achieved or the vast wealth they have. Rather, they are fondly remembered on how they have extended their hands to victims of calamities or how they comforted people amidst the misfortunes in life. People find these ‘serving’ or ‘servant’ leaders as great. Indeed, service is greatness.

Secondly, the key to greatness is humility. The gospel says that Jesus took a child, He placed it in their midst, and put His arms around it, and then He said to the disciples, Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” The humility of the child can be seen in his dependence toward his parents. Children are dependent on their parents. They cannot live without their parents. Their dependence is so total.

In the same way, the greatness of a person can also be found in his total dependence on God. There are people who, because of their resources, would think they are self-sufficient and on that respect, are powerful. Because of self-sufficiency and power, they feel that they no longer need God in their lives. But Jesus would want each one to remain dependent on God. In baptism, have become “children of God” and Jesus wants that we remain as such. As children are dependent on their parents, so, we, “God’s children” should also remain dependent on God the Father. For Jesus, that sense of humility before God is an indication of greatness. Humility is greatness.

Again, experience tells us that this is true. Arrogant and boastful people are not considered as great. People would rather remember others as great for their being humble and being unassuming. This is the mystery of greatness. This is Christian greatness. AMEN.


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