23 September 2018 – Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Who is the greatest?
One of the differences between RC priests and other denominations is that the former tend to be appointed to a parish rather than apply for it. I have a recurring nightmare where a parish group interview me for some future parish with “what’s your vision for our parish.” In some way, it may be like trying to prove that you are the greatest.
They tell of one priest who was appointed Parish Priest and lightly told his mother that his official title was “Very Reverend”- his mother remarked “knowing you son- being barely reverent would be an achievement.”
The debate the disciples entered into was one that the disciples perhaps never intended to be overheard or confronted about. Who is the greatest? We will never know what criteria they used. Of course the obvious counter question was “who was the worst?” Was it on spirituality, praying the most, ability to speak,relate with people?
We all have our own questions to fill in the blanks and it comes from our own insecurities really.
We probably don’t “get” the shocking response of Jesus, when He puts a child before them. At the time of Jesus the word in Hebrew and Aramaic for “child” was the same as servant. Basically a servant or child couldn’t pay you back.
In antiquity, childhood was a time of terror. 1/3 of live births ended in death. 2/3 of children died before the age of 16. Disease and hygiene wiped out 2/3 of the child population. Even still you mightn’t get it that children were denigrated as nearly useless at the time of Jesus. During famine children were also last to be fed.. survival of the fittest.. Survival of the strong… and yes… survival of the greatest. I won’t even get into how boys were preferred to girls in the harsh culture of the time.
So for Jesus to tell them to become like little children – it’s a slap in the face, an insult to their culture and values.
Our world has a mania for ranking and estimating and valuing- but it’s quite possible that while we think everything has its price- that we may end up knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. An end to the division and conflict of ranking and more embracing our common humanity walking together the narrow path in life to God.