After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee, but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a child, placed him in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”
—Mark 9: 30-37
We always want to be the best, to be the number one in all things. We were oriented to be always on top of everything. We aspire for the best position, the best place for we think that when we have the best, that is our final fulfillment and end of what we aspire for.
We think and believe that being “the best” is all that counts. We are driven to perform and deliver what is expected from us. We push and pull people and things just to attain our aim and goal. Most of us become competitive in almost all aspects of life: family, academic, professional, social, and even in our spiritual life. We want to be the best and in return we get due and proper recognition from people around us and we get the place or rank that we want.
It is not wrong to do our best and excel, and be recognized and appreciated. In fact, it is encouraged to give one’s best and do one’s best in whatever we do. What makes it not correct is when one is driven to work for the best if only for his/ her self-interest and gratification. It’s not right when one finds his/ her way on top at the expense of others.
In the guise of being good and nice, working out one’s best would be wrong if it is based on egoistic intention and malicious motivation. It is wrong if the intention is just to get a reward or recognition in return, the intention therefore is not pure and good. That was the point when the disciples were so engrossed on who is the greatest among themselves and be given the best place by Jesus.
In the gospel, the Twelve were so busy about who is the greatest from among their ranks. While Jesus was teaching them about the fate of the Son of God as to suffer, die and rise on the third day, the disciples just don’t get Jesus’ point that if they follow him, then they should understand and be willing to undergo what Jesus will have to undergo. And Jesus identified who is the greatest of all and that is the one who is willing to be the last of all and servant of all.
Jesus’ concept of greatness is of service. To serve others and not one’s self, to be the last so that others may be served. To give flesh and put into concrete real love, is only through our loving service to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need. Our love of God is inseparable with our love of neighbor. We serve humanity and the entire creation is not only great but the greatest. To be the first is to be the last of all and servant of all, in this way, one achieves greatness.
Jesus took a child in the midst and told them that whoever welcomes a child in his name welcomes him and the One who sent him. Like children, we become great when we put our complete trust in God and serve God without self-serving motivations and interests but full surrender and trust to the will of God.
Let us always be mindful of our intentions when we pursue, perform and accomplish anything in life—be it a plan or a project. We only become great when the intention is pure and real, to love God and neighbor, to serve God and neighbor.
Let us pause and ask ourselves the following guide questions:
What is my personal aim and the primary goal that I want to attain and achieve in life?
Aiming for the best in life and becoming great, do I please God with all my accomplishments, achievements, and the honors I’ve received?
Have I served my family, community, and God?
In what ways do I serve my brothers and sisters?
Do I trust the Lord at all times just like the child whom Jesus had modeled to the disciples?
Prayer: Almighty God, we want to know you and follow you, love you and serve you. May we become like little children who trust you fully and submit completely to your holy will. Help us always to be humble of hearts and just to our brothers and sisters. May we praise and please
You through our small and big works for we do these in your name. It does not matter if we are least or great, but we serve in love as we have loved. This we ask through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.