Looking to Christ as “the way, the truth and the life,” is always good for us to remember to do as Christians. We not only look at Him in His actions and life but to His heart as well – in order to get to know Him. One serious problem for Christians in our day is that they barely ever look at Christ in the scriptures or in prayer or in study. Instead of learning from the divine teacher we are learning from other sources – we end up following the same pattern of behaviour as the disciples in today’s scriptures – then, as St. James says, we experience disputes and discord in our daily lives.
The beauty of Christ though is revealed in our Gospel today as we see, rightfully in His person, the steadfast and merciful love of God for His children. Jesus Never seems to tire of teaching His brothers and sisters. The funny thing, and this seems to happen so often, is that while Jesus is explaining Himself to them, explaining the way of the Lord God, they are, almost at the same time, manifesting contrary attitudes and behaviour.
Jesus is teaching them that the Son of Man must undergo suffering and die and be raised… MUST! In other words it is the will of God that this should happen. Such a conviction on the part of Jesus, manifesting the love of God for humanity, demonstrates and exemplifies the selfless love of God – it is God’s humble service to His children – His little ones. Notice how He becomes even smaller than they. THe last of all.
The disciples don’t get it – and truth be told, neither do we most of the time! They are afraid to ask – almost like I don’t even want to know! Their lack of understanding is further demonstrated by what they begin to do next – they “argued with one another who was the greatest.” I get a sense that the disciples know that they shouldn’t be doing this – I think just as we know implicitly that we should not do the same – but still we do it, in our own little ways we do it. This is why they are silent when Jesus asks them “What were you arguing about on the way?” We should I think, at this time, hear an echo of the second reading in which St. James points out that human envy and selfishness is the source of conflict and discord and disputes – “You want something and you do not have it; so you commmit murder.” This is a striking line – I am particularly reminded of Judas, one of the twelve here being taught by the Lord.
I think what I need to drive home here is the fact that human selfishness, human sin, envy, and all the subsequent discord, division and malice that comes from it is not fulfilling. This should be self evident to us – how many of us enjoy discord, strife, and division in our relationships? None of us! Yet we rarely know how to live any differently – I point for example to the rising divorce rates in marriages. Amongst my aunts and uncles only three of ten couples are not divorced! Maybe a better question to think about is why is it unfulfilling? and what is the answer? What is it that Jesus is trying to teach us?
Jesus shows us the way to communion, intimacy, glory and life – and it comes through His life and love. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” All of this is only possible in and through relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what happens when people try to live this kind of selfless life without love? I can will that kind of service and part of my willing should also help me to love but to a certain extent if it is just an act of the will and is not accompanied by a change of heart then I will gradually become bitter and jaded and tired because i am not sustained. Jesus gives the key for this kind of love and transformation in service at the end when He makes the connection between love of the little one – one such child – and he love of Him and the one who send HIm. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Selfless love of neighbor begins and ends with loving intimacy and communion with God. Pope Benedict succinctly accounts for this by saying:
“Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like o even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend….If i have not contact with God whatsoever in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God.”
Imagine if Jesus way was followed? Imagine if people were tripping over each other trying to serve and care for each other? Hard to imagine isn’t it? It is so contrary to what we know and experience! But, with the Lord it is not impossible! This means that the principal striving in my life is to, as the scriptures, as Jesus say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength….and your neighbor as yourself!”