Jesus’ group crosses Galilee on the way to Jerusalem. They do it quietly, without anyone knowing it. Jesus wants to dedicate himself completely to instructing his disciples. It’s very important what he wants to engrave on their hearts: his journey isn’t a path of glory, success and power. On the contrary: it leads to crucifixion and rejection, though ending up in resurrection.
The disciples have no idea of what Jesus is telling them. They’re afraid even to ask him. They don’t want to think about the crucifixion. That’s not part of their plans or expectations. While Jesus talks to them about self-giving and the cross, they talk about their ambitions: who will be the most important person in the group? Who will occupy the highest place? Who will receive the most honor?
Jesus «sits down». He wants to teach them something that they must never forget. He calls the Twelve, those who are most closely tied to his mission, and he invites them to come close since they find themselves pretty far from him at this point. In order to follow his footsteps and be like him, they need to learn two fundamental attitudes.
- First one: «If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all». Jesus’ disciples must renounce ambitions, ranks, honors and vanities. In his group no one should strive to be over the rest. On the contrary, you should occupy the last place, put yourself on the level of those who don’t have power or hold any rank. And from that place, be like Jesus: «the servant of all».
- The second attitude is so important that Jesus illustrates it with a tender symbolic act. He place a child in the midst of the Twelve, in the center of the group, so that those ambitious men would forget all about honor and greatness, and turn their eyes to the little ones, the weak, those most in need of defense and care.
Then he embraces the child and tells them: «Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me». Whoever welcome one of the «little ones» is welcoming the one who is the «greatest»: Jesus. And whoever welcomes Jesus is welcoming the Father who sent him.
A Church that welcomes the little ones and the defenseless, is learning to welcome God. A Church that looks toward the higher ups and associates itself with the powerful of the earth is perverting the Good News of God that Jesus announces.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf