25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
WHO IS THE GREASTEST
Today’s gospel picks up exactly where last week’s gospel left. Remember, in last week’s gospel Jesus was there in Caesarea Philippi and questioned the disciples saying ‘who do the people say that I am?’ And ‘who do you say that I am?’ After confirming that they knew that he is the “messiah,” the promised one, he began to teach them ‘what type of messiah he is.’ What his messianic mission is? He is a suffering messiah. He is going to suffer and die and on the third day he is going to rise again. He also clarified to them ‘what it means to follow him.’ To follow him is to take up the cross. Having clarified all these things, he now moves from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum on his way to Jerusalem his final destiny. And on the way he again predicts about his suffering and death.
That is our gospel today. Listen to it. “The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.” That sums up perfectly what he is going to do to save the world. That sums up the Pascal mystery. The suffering , death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the reaction of the disciples. Look how comical the whole thing looks. Look and see how indifferent the disciples were to what Jesus was saying. Look at what they were privately discussing on their way. “Who is the greatest? Who is worthy of power and position among the disciples?” They had their own things to worry about, forgetting Jesus and his mission. Jesus was worrying about how to save the world and was saying to them that he has to suffer and die to save the word, but the disciples were worried about, who will be the greatest in the kingdom which Jesus is presumably going to establish. Or who will be greatest in the kingdom of the saved.
It is something like this; I remember when I was around five or six years old, I fell into a deep well with my brother on my way to school. It was my sister who pulled me as she was falling. Thank God, someone saw us falling and he jumped into the well to rescue us. We were holding on to his shoulders and he was holding onto a stone on the edge. It was a deep well and had no steps. He was worrying about how to lift us up to the top of the well to the land but you know what I was worrying about? Don’t laugh when I tell you the truth. I was worrying about my school uniform that it was wet and I cannot go to school. Great irony. He was worrying about saving us but I was worried about my school uniform. Total indifference to the situation.
In the same way the disciples were totally indifferent to what Jesus was concerned about. They were utterly stuck to their own ambitions and desires. It is here I believe they stand as perfect examples of each one us here today. They stand as replicas of each of us. In a way they anticipate each us. How? Let me explain. Even today, we hear over and over again about the path of suffering love. We hear over and over again what it means to be a Christian? What it means to follow Christ? That we need to take up our cross and follow him. We display in our houses and churches the image of Christ-crucified and profess that he is our Lord, he is our model, and he is our saviour and our everything. But…..when it comes to real life we over and again do what the disciples did. We pine and crave for power, prestige and worldly honour. Is it not true???
Path of suffering love, path of the Sermon on the Mount, we affirm theoretically and say they are Christian principles and we take pride in them, because none of the other religions seem to have such wonderful teachings. But when it comes to the shove, we refuse to walk the path. We all gladly say “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.” But, when asked to follow the way, we say it is difficult, impossible or impractical.
So, Jesus takes time to teach us and his disciples what are the things that matter in the kingdom. The greatest must be servant of all or the least of all. Saying this he takes up a little child and places him in their midst saying “anyone who welcomes this little child welcomes me…”The Aramaic word used by Jesus for child is “Talya” which means either ‘child’ or ‘servant.’ There is an interesting play on words. When he welcomes a child, the weakest member of the society and holds the child in his arms. He is symbolically also embracing each one of us when we accept to be servants and allow our greatness to be measured by our degree of service within the community, without concern for honours, social status or popularity. That is what it means to be great in the kingdom of God. Amen
Fr. Showreelu Simham