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The greatest in the Kingdom

Gospel Reading: Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father. What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

The disciples ask a good question, not a vain one, because striving to be great in the Kingdom of heaven is a worthy goal, one that Jesus himself sets forth in the Sermon on the Mount (cf Mt 5:19). The problem, however, is on their assumed definition of greatness. The disciples think of greatness in terms of strength and superiority, and, in order to reshape their assumptions, Jesus answers them with a living illustration. He places a child in their midst. What does it mean to “become like children”? In Jesus’ time, children bring out the images of being lowly, insignificant, and humble. Jesus is teaching his disciples that leaders in the community of faith must be humble and unassuming.

Faithful leadership is not acquiring the trappings of prestige. It is being childlike and lowly. Imagine a circle drawn in the sand called “the Kingdom of heaven.” When the disciples ask, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” they assume, of course, that they are standing inside the circle. They want to know who, among the insiders, is the greatest. Startlingly, Jesus reaches outside the circle for his example. Even more astonishing, Jesus is now outside the circle, hidden in the faces of the children, the “nobodies,” the weak, the small, the helpless.
On the cross, Jesus became weak and vulnerable, so that all who are broken and frail, the lost and the least, may be saved.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.