WHY DO WE FORGET IT?
On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus keeps instructing his disciples about what to expect at the end. He insists once more that he will be handed over to men and these will kill him, but God will raise him up. Mark says that «they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him». It’s not hard to see foretold in these words what many Christians have lacked over the centuries. We don’t understand Jesus and we’re afraid to go deeper into his message.
When they get to Capernaum, Jesus asks them: «What were you arguing about on the road?». The disciples keep quiet. They’re ashamed. Mark tells us that, on the road, they have been arguing about who was the most important. Certainly it’s embarrassing to see Jesus, who is walking toward the cross, accompanied closely by a group of disciples full of stupid ambitions. What do we argue about today in the Church while we say we’re following Jesus?
Once they’re in the house, Jesus is ready to give them a lesson. They need it. These are his first words: «If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all». In the group that’s following Jesus, anyone who wants to rise up and be more than the others must put herself last, behind everyone; thus she will see what it is they need and will be able to be servant of all.
True greatness consists in serving. For Jesus, the first isn’t the one who occupies a seat of importance, but the one who goes about serving and helping the rest. The first ones in the Church aren’t the hierarchy, but those simple persons who go about helping the ones they meet on their road. We mustn’t forget it.
For Jesus, his Church ought to be a place where everyone thinks about the others. A community where we’re attentive to the one who could need us most. This isn’t just a fantasy Jesus has. For him it’s so important that he’s going to give them a graphic example.
He sits down and calls his disciples. Then he draws a child near and places him in the middle of them all so that they’ll focus their attention on him. In the center of the apostolic Church must be always that child, symbol of weak and destitute people: those in need of welcome, support and defense. They shouldn’t be outside, far from Jesus’ Church. They should occupy the center of our attention.
Then Jesus embraces the child. He wants the disciples to always remember him thus: identified with the weak. Meanwhile he says to them: «Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me».
Jesus’ teaching is clear: the way to welcome God is to welcome God’s Son Jesus, present in the little ones, the defenseless, the poor and destitute. Why do we so often forget it? What is it that’s in the center of the Church, if it’s not this Jesus identified with the little ones?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf