The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home
November 5th, 2017 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
At times Jesus uses what scholars call “reversal language.” Today’s gospel is a good example of this. If you want to be first, then, take the last place. If you want to be a true leader, then serve everyone. This certainly sounds like a reversal of what most would think about the correct order of things.
In today’s competitive society, most seem to want to be first, to be given top-billing, recognition, privileges, a first-class seat. Most people would say that they would rather lead than follow.
All of which makes us think that not many people would have liked what Jesus said in today’s gospel. Jesus recommends being humble. Years ago, I learned that the virtue of humility is the virtue of truth. Being humble means accepting ourselves as we are.
If we think that we are above others, or are always trying to move ourselves ahead of others, it’s unlikely that we would want to help them. Many would not applaud the words of Jesus that the greatest among us will be the servant of all.
In today’s gospel Jesus describes two types of people. Those who are always wanting to be considered the best (in their eyes and the eyes others) and those who are content with being who they are. The proud and the humble. For Jesus, the only one is to be thought of as “best” is God.
In purely human terms, people are classified according to a kind of ranking system. That’s okay. But when God is added to the mix, God should be placed on top with the rest of us equally (that’s important too) positioned below God. Jesus is saying that because God equally loves every one of us, that’s enough. We are all “privileged” by God’s love. There is no need for us to seek “a higher place.”
Good parents and good friends know this. They value others – children – grandchildren – friends -- neighbors and they are willing to serve others when need presents itself. Serving or helping others is never “beneath” them. Jesus often angered those in authority because he valued everyone and treated everyone as deserving his attention and assistance. He asks us to do the same.
©David M. Thomas, PhD