Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“I am going to be killed.” Imagine the shock of hearing Jesus say such a thing, especially if you were an apostle. “Here I have given up everything,” you might say to yourself, “and now He’s saying He’s going to be killed? Will I be killed, too?” This news is so shocking, in fact, that the apostles seem to miss the truly shocking bit about His rising from the dead. The talk of death so disturbs them that they do not ask Him for clarification; it was a long, tense walk to Capernaum.

The apostles were so rattled by the foretold death of their leader that they argued amongst one another the entire way and when Jesus pressed them about it, they fell into silence. But He could read their hearts: they had been arguing about who was going to take charge after He was gone. After all, if their leader was going to be killed someone must take up the banner of their cause; who among them was the greatest and could take charge? It was then that Jesus gave them the job description for being the greatest: be the least.

His teaching about receiving the least in His name, even someone as seemingly insignificant as a little child, should bring to mind His teaching in Matthew’s Gospel, that whatever we do to the least of His people, we do to Him. When we reject the least because we see ourselves as greater, we reject Him: later on Jesus would say to His apostles “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me” (Mt. 10:30). They learn in time what it is to be humble, to be a servant of all as He is, and it is in this way that we become true followers of Christ. News of His impending death, rather than stirring feelings of loving concern for Jesus stirred rather the fires of ambition and an impulse to control in advance what would be completely out of their power when it finally arrived. Is it any wonder, then, that all of them fled Gethsemane when Jesus’ warnings came to pass?

Let us follow Jesus, humbly, trusting Him even should His way lead us into the shadow of the Cross. Let us receive one another, even the least of our brothers and sisters, as if they were Christ Himself. For He who was greatest became the least for our sake, to lie humbly in the dust beneath our feet so to lift us Heavenward.

September 20th, 2015