Wisdom 2:12,17-20 ,James 3:16-4:3, Mark 9:30-37
Today, when we hear the word greatness, we begin to think of someone who has money, houses and businesses etc.
Worldly greatness depicts one who has enough influence and power. Sometimes this leads to intimidation, power tussle, competition, hatred and divisions. It happens because everyone wants to make it in life.
One can acquire a lot but not great. One can be the governor or president of a country but not great. Therefore, the worldly conception of what greatness is has a loophole.
Greatness goes beyond what we acquire. In the readings of today, we can draw inspiration from the words of Jesus about what it means to be great.
Today’s readings express the true meaning of Greatness. We talk about this not from the worldly concept of it but from the way the scripture defines true greatness. So let us take it gradually.
Everybody wants to Be Great.
In a classroom a teacher asks the students “Who can be the class Prefect, Please raise your hands”. Almost all the students raised their hands. Then He asks them “why do you want to be the prefect of the class?”
Some students said among themselves “I want to be the class prefect so that I will be writing names of noisemakers, others said “I want to be the class prefect so that these people will be respecting me” and many others.
Then the teacher keeps quiet and begins to teach. Then later, after much writing on the board, the teacher asks the students “who can clean the board for us” only two of the students raise their hands.
Therefore, many people want to be the class prefect but few people want to serve the class. There and then, the teacher selects one of those who want to clean the board as the prefect of the class.
In the same way today, many people have the wrong definition of greatness. Worldly influences have made us talk about greatness only in terms of what we are to gain, the people we need to trample upon, the money we need to make, the houses and cars we need to ride and how to showcase our might and power etc. We can have all these but not great.
Saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope John II etc are great but they lived a simple life. So, what is true greatness?
It is an indubitable truth that every person wants to be great. Many people struggle and suffer to achieve it. Some can go to any extent even it means to kill and deceive others to rise. The main point is that we have lost the true meaning of greatness.
The world looks at greatness from the side of domination, intimidation, lording it over and seeking self-appraisal, honour and glory. The world’s definition of greatness is different from the true meaning of greatness.
Today we live in a world, where bribery, corruption, deception, are on the rise. We live in a world that is ruled by people who seek only glory and human appraisal.
We live in a world where closeness with God, righteousness and service to God is relegated to the background.
Nowadays, things that are not normal are now taken as normal. Everybody wants to be great but none wants to pay the price for greatness.
So, the aim of today’s reflection today is to examine what it truly means to be great. We want to unravel the difference between our notion of greatness and what Jesus teaches about greatness, what truly makes one great and what we can do to achieve greatness?
True Greatness and What We want.
In the gospel, Jesus and his disciples walk through Galilee. As they were going, Jesus was busy reminding them again that He will be delivered into the hands of men.He will undergo suffering and they will put him to death. Jesus was busy trying to open their eyes to what awaits Him. The disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying.
They did not understand because this is not the type of Messiah they want. The jews are seriously awaiting a messiah that will rescue them and restore the lost glory of Israel, so what Jesus is saying seems very difficult to understand. This is not what they want.
So, in life, we always seek blessings, but we do not want the cross aspect of it. We do not want to hear anything about suffering or the challenges.
In every field we undertake, there is the cross and the glorious aspect of it. This is part of life. Life can never be without the cross. Sometimes we do not want to face the cross or the suffering aspect of it.
2. Secondly when Jesus was talking about this, Jesus did not just tell them that His destiny will end in suffering. Mark says that Jesus was telling them that “‘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.
So, there is the time of suffering and death and also the time of resurrection. This means that true greatness is not only about the glorious aspect of life. In every life endeavour, we also have the suffering aspect of it.
Before the glory, there is always a time of hardship. Before the crown, there is always the cross. The problem is that we want only the crown and the glory. After the passion of Jesus, resurrection awaits Him. So, before we reach our destination in life, there is always the challenging aspect of the journey.
3. When they came to Capernaum, Jesus begins to ask them what they are arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. This part of the gospel is so funny.
How come Jesus was busy instructing and telling His beloved followers what awaits Him but instead of listening to Jesus, they were busy arguing among themselves who is the greatest.
They seem not to be interested in what Jesus was telling them. They are busy arguing about who is the greatest.
This is the problem we have today. Instead of a family coming together to think about how they can succeed, they will be busy fighting themselves on who will be in charge.
Instead of the politicians coming together to plan on the way forward in the state or the country, they will be busy playing power tussle on who is the most powerful.
The quest for power, wealth and worldly greatness is a problem that has continued to cripple our progress in life. The second reading tells us that wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony and wicked things of every kind.
4. Fourthly, whenever we always focus on what we shall gain, or whenever we focus on what we have to acquire, there is the tendency to trample on the needs of others.
When we become so self-centred, we lose sight of the people who are undergoing challenges and difficulties. We can see that what Jesus was telling the disciples is about his suffering, death and betrayal.
They would have at least shown concern and care but because they were so interested in who is to be the greatest, they could not pay attention to Him.
So, whenever we are so obsessed with what we shall gain or acquire, we lose sight of those around us and with us who are undergoing serious difficulties.
We tend to forget that there are also people who may be affected by what we do. Therefore, the true meaning of greatness is a life for others and not for our self-glory.
The True Meaning Of Greatness and What God expects.
1. When Jesus was asking them what they were arguing about on the road They said nothing. Then Jesus tells them that ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’
Therefore, Jesus reveals the true meaning and secret of Greatness. Jesus reveals to us that Greatness does not come through material acquisitions.
2. The Greek word for “servant” as Jesus used in the gospel is Diakonos. From the Greek word we get the word “deacon.”
This particular word depicts someone in a humble position, whose mission is to serve the people and provide them with food. Saint Paul uses the word frequently. We can see that in 1 Corinthians 3:5, 9, 2 Corinthians 6:4, Ephesians 1:23; 6:21 and Colossians 1:23, 25.
Diakonos is a role for the humble and a role to save lives. This is what makes servant people like John the Baptist, The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta great.
3. The world’s greatest are those who served their people with their gifts and talents. They lived their lives touching lives and saving souls.
So, the true meaning of greatness is a life for others. The worlds greatest are those whose lives, works and writings became an inspiration to many.
The great saints are those who even sacrificed their lives for the growth of the church. They lived their lives drawing souls to God.
The point we want to make here is that having an ambition is not bad but to be great, our ambitions should be channelled in serving others other than serving ourselves.
Therefore, the true meaning of greatness is when we live most of our lives taking care of other people. The true meaning of greatness is found in touching lives and not in intimidating them.
The True Meaning of Greatness and the Way to Be Great.
To show His disciples the true meaning of greatness and the way to be great Jesus takes a little child, and set him in front of them, put His arms around 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.’
In essence, Jesus is telling them that the way to be great is to learn how to welcome the little children.
In Matthew’s account in Matthew 18:3, Jesus tells the disciples to “become like little children” but in today’s gospel, Jesus tells the disciples to receive the child.
The Greek word Jesus uses here is dexomai which means to welcome a person as a part of a family. Therefore, a child here symbolises the lowly status, the helpless, the sick, the poor, the needy.
Therefore, just like Jesus put His arms around the little child to receive the child, Jesus is asking His disciples to extend their affection, care, love to the humble, the weak, the sick, the needy, the suffering, the orphans etc.
In Matthew 25:40, He says “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me” Therefore, when we welcome the children, feed the poor, the needy, the lowly etc, we do them for God and when we use what we do or where we work in saving lives, we pave the way for greatness.
Therefore greatness is not when we accrue power, fame, money, and influence etc, Greatness is when we use them to serve and touch lives.
1. Today instead of living for others, we live against others. Therefore, as we do this, we create problems and disharmony.
In the second reading, St. James asks
“Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your desires.
Therefore, when we live our lives only seeking our desires, we create a problem for ourselves and others. We can get what we want from God if we seek it for the sake of saving souls.
The reason there are problems in many places today is because of that incessant desire to satisfy our desires.
Every person wants to make it in life, every person wants to be the best and the greatest, to achieve this, many can kill and destroy and go to any extent to achieve that. This is the reason many families today are in crisis. If we truly want to be great or first among all, be the reason that others are happy.
2. What Jesus is saying is that if we want to be great, be the reason there is progress where you are working, put smiles on people’s faces, be the reason there is still peace in your family.
If you want to be great, be the reason others have seen light. Therefore to be great is not by the number of people that sing our praises.
It is not by the numbers of those following you, it is truly by the number of lives we have saved or touched. How many souls have we saved through our profession? How many people have seen light through us? A life lived for others is the secret of greatness.
3. All the times Jesus and His disciples were coming to Capernaum, Jesus does not ask them what they were arguing and presumably, the disciples may think that Jesus doesn’t know about what they are saying among themselves.
By being silent, when Jesus asks them the question shows that they truly hid the discussion from Jesus. The silence could depict a moment of fear and surprise.
In the same way, there are times we think that God is not interested in what we do. Or we feel that He will surely understand.
We have to know that God knows everything we do both in the open and secret. So, we may think that God is not interested in us.
We may think that He does not care about what we do or say. Some people think that God does not care about whatever goes on in our lives.
God knows everything. By asking the apostles the questions also shows that God is also interested in our affairs. He wants to correct us on what we do well and what we do not do well. God wants to direct us and show us the way.
He wants to teach us like He teaches the apostles. The problem is that we think we know it all. We do not have time for Him.
Sometimes we perpetuate our acts in secret and think He does not see us. God sees all. He is also interested in you. He needs us to involve Him in our daily activities. So, the true meaning of greatness is also a life lived in God.
4. Finally, the most practical and effective way to be great is to be a servant of all. By this, we have to discard all forms of wickedness.
Let us discard the thought of bringing people down to rise as we see in the first reading. We have to discard jealousy, envy, unhealthy competition, greed, and selfishness. As the second reading says, these will lonely divide us.
Rather, let us welcome others with kindness, treat them with generosity and show sincere love to them.
May God bless you dearest and give us the grace to be great through our service to Him. May He also never forsake you Amen.