The Greatest in God’s Kingdom

Luke 9: 46-50
Jb 1: 6-22 / Psa 17

For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.
(Luke 9:48)

Free to serve the Lord Who’s coming,
Don’t feel great about this freedom;
But rejoice that those who’re serving
Are the greatest in God’s kingdom.

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the One Who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” “Master,” John said, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-50)

Reflection

In the beginning of this chapter, St. Luke relates how Jesus had sent off the twelve apostles to proclaim the kingdom of God, giving them the phenomenal powers of healing all kinds of disease and exorcising evil spirits. After experiencing this new kind of power, the apostles came back, so high and preoccupied with “their” abilities that they could not internalize the things that Jesus was telling them. Our Lord had to rebuke them, “Pay attention to what I am telling you!” (Lk.9:44) And still they argued among themselves as to who would occupy the highest position in the “earthly kingdom” that they thought our Lord was establishing.

Instead of castigating His apostles about their childish distraction, Jesus took a child, and had him stand beside Himself, first of all, to let them see that it is not the greatest but the weakest among them that count most in the eyes of God. Whoever welcomes the most helpless and neediest of men is welcoming Jesus Himself. Here we understand how Mother Teresa and all the other great saints like St. Damien and St. Francis of Assisi could embrace the leprose and the dying, because they welcomed and saw the Lord Jesus in those poor wretched souls. Secondly, He also wanted them to imitate the qualities of a child — humble, trusting to a fault, easy to forgive hurts, devoid of any lust for power or ambition, and totally dependent on its parents or protectors. God loves those who are poor and helpless in spirit, not those who are self-sufficient and independent. As St. James wrote, “God rejects the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Ja 4:6). Finally, what our Lord meant when He said, “he who is least among you all—he is the greatest” was that those who serve their fellowmen are the greatest. “He must be the servant of all” (Mk.9:35). Jesus clearly condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees because they pretended to be in the service of the law, but in reality they were only after the status or social standing that this “service” conferred. In the eyes of the world, greatness is associated with status. But in the eyes of God, it is in how we serve our fellowmen that makes us great in His kingdom. And in our service of others, let the words of St. Paul be our guide: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others” (Phil.2:3-4).

A final word of caution to the servants of the Lord. Even in our service, the sin of pride can still rear its ugly head, especially when we have accomplished much in our chosen ministry. If we think we deserve salvation because of our works or for who we are, we may in fact be in danger of losing it. Remember, “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” (Eph.2:8-9).

Father God, we acknowledge that everything comes from you; even our good works are the result of your grace. It is our sins alone that are our own doing. Forgive us for them. Amen.

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