Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is touching to see Jesus’ response to the apostles fighting over who is the greatest. He doesn’t get annoyed or yell and scream. He reacts as he would like them to react when they face a problem with their disciples. He is totally calm. It is a teaching moment. Jesus doesn’t just tell them what to do but he acts it out. It made me think about my parents’ style of discipline and how much more effective it might have been to take one of us aside and speak to us.
Jesus calls them to a deeper level of conversion and speaks at their level. Usually at that time, the rabbi would have his disciples sit at his feet. Jesus does not do this. It seems like he is saying, learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart. Only on the cross does he stand above them, and there it is to show his weakness.
There is a subtle irony in this gospel that one spiritual writer points out. While they are competing among themselves, Jesus might be thinking, don’t you realize that you are already in the kingdom. To be with Christ is to be in the kingdom. It is already over two years that they have been with him, and what could be better than that? If we are with Christ and in his Church, aren’t we already in the kingdom? Don’t we really have all that we need?
Towards the end of the gospel Jesus says: Whoever wishes to be greatest among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. It is an invitation. He has to say it two different ways to make sure they get the point. One of the recent founders of a new movement in the Church said of his colleague who was always at his side: he always told me the truth. This is quite a service that may not be true in many marriages. To say with charity the truth, always, to the other, is not an easy feat.
Carlos Acutis, the young man who was beatified last year in Assisi, was always serving the kid who were by alone in school, or who had special needs. Frequently, if someone’s parents were divorcing, he would take him to his house where the environment was more stable. He was the one who led his parents to the Church. He lived well this lesson of service that Jesus is trying to teach his apostles, and us.
Christ teaches them not only by what he says, but by who he is and what he does. He becomes food for us, even today. Let us ask him to help us have this spirit of service to others.