SIMPLE GREATNESS


25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
September 23, 2012

SIMPLE GREATNESS

This Sunday is a Sunday marked with schemings and plottings, and secret trips and secret arguments. All three readings speak either of evil men clandestinely ganging up on the “just one” (1st Reading), or hidden passions from which come “wars and conflicts” and “jealousy and selfish ambition” (2nd Reading), or the Lord and his disciples going secretly on a journey through Galilee, and disciples quietly, though apparently not discretely, but actually passionately arguing about “who was the greatest” among them! (Gospel).

This Sunday, like all other Sundays of the year, have to do with real challenges, real problems, and real people dealing with all too real scenarios of selfishness, greed, and lust for honor and glory.

Let us face it! … We, too, go through such selfish antics every once in a while. As the first reading shows us, at times, envy gets the better of us, and, instead of getting the core of the message, we seek to kill the messenger – for “he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings.”

We cannot stand the truth. We cannot face what ought to be liberating truth, even if we always have a mouthful to say about the self-concocted and made-up truths that concern other people except ourselves.

But James in the second reading hits the nail right on the head and puts us right back in place … No need for us to blame others, he says. No need to look for scapegoats and fall guys. No need to look too far for answers, for they are right within us – the “passions that make war within” and among ourselves!

The disciples, too, were not spared. They, too, fell victim to their own ambitiousness and thirst for prestige and glory. Even as the Lord was focused on gradually introducing them to the mystery of the Son of Man, the so-called “messianic secret,” and even as the Lord was on an ostensible “secret” trip together with his close-in followers, the same disciples were on a not-so-secret ego trip. Where the Lord was trying to lead them to understand something of monumental importance, that “the Son of Man [was] going to be handed over to men and they [would] kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man [would] rise,” the same disciples apparently were not too interested. Neither were they paying any attention. They were actually focused on establishing who among them was the greatest!

The three readings expose the truth about who and what we are. We could be scheming and plotting, as the Book of Wisdom reminds us. We could stand in the way of the good man, and block everything he sets out to do. We could be jealous, selfish, covetous, envious and even murderous, at worst, or conveniently indifferent and callous, like the disciples, at best.

But while the Lord tried to keep his journey through Galilee a secret of sorts, for reasons I know not of, being a non-Biblical scholar, I would like to suggest that he makes no secret about what sort of life journey we all need to do.

First, we need to know Him as the Lord who upholds [our] life (Responsorial Psalm). We need to see Him as He really is for us and for all women and men – the Messiah, the Savior, who came, not to be served, but to serve.

Second, we need to look, not outside of us, but inside us, for insights to our own wicked behavior, and that which, ultimately, will help us  - “wisdom from above” that is “pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.”

Third, and most importantly, the Lord does not merely tell us. He shows us. And greatness is by way of being like a child, and that being first really means being the “last of all and the servant of all.”

There are far too many big men with big egos in the world today. We see it everyday … national leaders and even international figures edging one another out of positions of power and prestige and honor. The same dirty and sinful system of politics is in place in many countries all over the world. In the country where I am, mendacious and manipulative men, known by the title of honorable, keep on throwing much at each other at the slightest provocation, especially now, that the elections are no more than six or seven months away. Even in the Church that I love and serve, politics often rears its ugly head when persons and personalities clash over issues and, most especially, over positions.

The “messianic secret” that the Lord took pains to reveal ever so gradually, that perhaps led him to do a quiet unheralded trip through Galilee, is really no secret anymore to us all. He was handed over. He was sentenced to die a shameful death. He suffered. He died. And as promised, He rose from the dead.

What about us? Isn’t it obvious that we are still arguing among ourselves and discussing who should be greatest? Isn’t it obvious that we all are still under the sway of sin and selfishness in such a way that we cannot even get our act together and do the good that we are called to do?

We have lost the art of being childlike. Children are naturally honest, sincere, loyal, and true. Being childlike is all about choosing and deciding voluntarily, to be “the last and the servant of all,” – to be insignificant and simple as simple can be.

And as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Nothing is more simple than greatness. Indeed, to be simple is to be great.” “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”


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