Jesus makes time to spend alone with his disciples, so he can prepare them for what is to come. The band of disciples heard him but did not understand. They went about discussing who among them was greater. It is ironic because Jesus was trying to tell them the path to salvation is through the cross and to humble oneself. He was trying to press upon them that one who is great is the one who lives a life in service to others. This was to be their mission.
The letter of James reinforces the message and calls out the dangers of envy, which is a passion that can lead to conflicts, even wars! How often do we find ourselves coveting another’s possessions or try to keep up the pace? Anyone who has experienced Black Friday sales in person after Thanksgiving will see the passion to posses the new deal. We see it when the next, new generation of phone or computer is released. Sometimes we may look at another’s success and compare it to our own. We can be like Tim Allen on the 90’s television show Home Improvement, envious to do better than everyone else. Of course, that leads to Tim’s many mishaps on the show for his quest for “more power.”
When we stop a moment and reflect on our experiences, I bet we can come up with examples in our lives where we let our passions dominate us for their own sake. Sometimes it leads us to treat others in a negative way. We may regret later and wish to recant our actions or words. We lose our focus on what matters the most.
We all make mistakes. Jesus understands us better than we understand ourselves. However, he offers the gospel message for us as a reminder of our mission. We are configured in Christ to be servants to those in need. Jesus even uses the visual aid of receiving a little child amid the disciples and gave the child a hug. Children in Jesus’ time were seen as nonpersons who had no legal rights or status. He was showing his disciples and us today the responsibility to receive those who are marginalized in society. He shows us how we treat others is a measurement of how we treat God. The path to the Lord is through the Son. Jesus wants us to reassess how we treat each other and those marginalized in society. If we catch ourselves in envy mode or yearning to possess what others may have, let us recall the image of Jesus embracing the little child to restore our focus. Let it remind us of our mission in these times of weakness. Are we cultivating peace or division? We are called in greatness not for ourselves but, to serve in Jesus’ name for his greater glory.