Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are the author of life and the giver of all that is good. You are the Prince of Peace and my mainstay. You are my healer and the cure itself. I need you, and I need to give you. I love you and commit myself to you entirely, knowing you could never let me down or deceive me. Thank you for giving me your very self.
Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace of loving trust in you, like that of a little child.
Who Is the Greatest? Just like the disciples, so many times we find ourselves looking to be the greatest. Society encourages us to do whatever it takes to be successful, to be “on top.” Frequently in our struggle to succeed we lose sight of Christ and end up relegating him to second place. If I strive for it, Christ can be of greatest importance in my life. He can be number one despite my weak tendencies.
The Secret to Success: Our Lord gives the secret to success in today’s Gospel passage: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” This is often in contradiction with the ways of the world. The Gospel teaches us that we must humble ourselves like Jesus did in order to achieve true greatness. Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and the climax of this service was his death for us on Calvary.
Childlike Trust: Success in the spiritual life begins with our childlike trust in God. Jesus places a child before the disciples and invites them to consider that child’s relationship of trust and simplicity before his parents. In the same way, we too must become like children before God, our heavenly Father. Do I turn to Our Lord when I’m troubled and when I wish to share something good with someone?
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, from now on I intend to entrust my anxieties and worries to you more readily. Help me to put all my cares in your most capable hands and trust in you as a little child. I know that you love me very much. Strengthen my confidence in you.
Resolution: I will entrust my day into God’s hands and live as a child alongside his father.
Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus presents a child as the model for his disciples who want to be the most important. Jesus lays out for his disciples what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem, how he will be rejected, tortured, and killed. Oblivious to this, the disciples are discussing who among them is the most important. For Jesus, the path to greatness lies on the road to Calvary, to self-forgetting love; for the disciples—and for most people of most ages—it lies along the road to ego inflation.
What is the antidote? A child is proposed as a kind of living icon to these ambitious Apostles. We notice first how Jesus physically identifies with the child, sitting down at his level and placing his arms around him. It is as though he is saying that he himself is like a child. How so? Children don’t know how to dissemble, how to be one way and act another. They are what they are; they act in accordance with their deepest nature.
Why was this story of Jesus’ identification with children preserved by all of the synoptic Gospels? Somehow it gets close to the heart of Jesus’ life and message.