Ps 17:1-3, 6-7
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
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.”
Good News Reflection: Who’s better than you?
How easy it is to identify with the feelings of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading! We want to know that we’ve got greatness within us, that we are not garbage, that we have important value. We all too easily feel inferior. Most of the time, we’re controlled by an unmet need to feel better about ourselves. In an effort to convince ourselves that we’re okay, we use words like a shrinking ray to diminish others.
This is why Jesus gave the disciples – and us – a couple of examples of how equally special everyone is to him, and why. It’s based on what he preached in Matthew 25: What we do to others we do to him. In this case, the caring and acceptance that we give to a child is caring and acceptance that we give to Jesus. We are not greater than (superior to) children, for through them we encounter God, who alone is superior.
Children know less than we do. But once in a while, they come up with a gem of wisdom or an insight that challenges us, and because they are children, we dismiss it with a condescending smile and “Ahhh, how cute.” But that’s not how Jesus treats them. That’s not how Jesus wants to treat them through us.
What about adults? We expect them to believe us when we tell them what’s right and what’s wrong, and when they challenge us with an insight that goes against our perception of the truth, we diminish what they said so that we can protect ourselves from feeling inferior.
But that’s not how Jesus treats them. That’s not how Jesus treats us.
At some point in our lives, we discovered that we could feel good about ourselves if we belonged to “the right group” – the “in” crowd, the “elite” club, the “high status” jobs, the “most respected” parish ministry. Christ’s disciples, because they were members of his inner circle, assumed that they’d been given special privileges. When an outsider acted as if he had the same privileges, they didn’t think he was equally qualified.
We all know people who don’t match our idea of who’s qualified, but if they’re not working against God’s kingdom, we’d better not do anything against them, for that’s the same as being against Jesus!
Know that you are not inferior. It’s only God’s opinion of you that really matters. In his eyes, you are as important as anyone else. Jesus loves you as much as he loves his own mother! Once you realize this and let it heal your wounded heart, the temptation to feel superior will diminish. And every time you feel inferior to others again, ask God what hidden wound needs more healing, and if you do whatever it takes to open up to that healing, eventually the temptation to feel superior will disappear.
Beloved Lord, thank You for the simplicity with which You talk to me and guide me every day. Give me the grace to receive You and give You to my neighbors, whole-heartedly and humbly. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica