Monday, September 28, 2009

The Humblest One Among You Is The One Who Is The Greatest

Today’s First Reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah 8:1-8. According to some Bible scholars, this is the last chapter of the Book of Zechariah. Chapters 9-13, they say, are from a different prophet. If they are correct, then this book is like the book of Amos, the book of Isaiah, and of several other prophets: It ends with a message of hope!

Notice that the word “jealous” is repeated three times at the beginning of this reading. If this message had been composed in English, it would read “very, very, very jealous”. But in the Hebrew, the verse reads, “stirred to burning wrath” or “on fire with anger”.

God says that he will dwell in Jerusalem with his people. This means that God’s glory will again be in the temple. The mountain of the Lord is Zion, where God’s temple was built. It was holy because God is holy.

There had been terrible wars in Jerusalem. People there died before they got old. Enemies took children off to be slaves. Now, the Lord was speaking about at time when Jerusalem would be at peace. Now, there will be people in the streets of the city, from the very young to the very old. Children will play in the streets, and old folks will sit in the park watching them play.

In the eyes of the few people who remain in the city, these things seem impossible. It would take a miracle! A miracle is something that would be impossible without God’s intervention. But will it be impossible for God? The answer that Zechariah hears is “No!”

Where are all these people going to come from? God will bring them from “where the sun rises” and “where the sun sets”, that is, from the east and from the west. God has scattered his people to the four corners of the earth; now, he is going to bring them home again, to dwell in Jerusalem, in the shadow of Zion, the Temple Mount, where the LORD dwells.

The reading ends with a statement of the covenant between God and his people, in his own words: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” And the LORD will rule over them with fidelity and justice.

Today’s Gospel is taken from Luke 9:46-50.

An argument arose among the disciples of Jesus about which of them was the most important. Jesus knew what they were arguing about. So, he took a little child and placed the child at his side. He said to the disciples “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me, and welcomes the one who sent me, for the humblest one among you is the one who is the greatest.” It was John who answered, “Rabbi, we saw someone casting out demons using your name. We told him to stop because he does not belong to our group.” “Do not try to stop him!” Jesus said. “Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

To welcome a little child is an example of service to someone who has no important position. Jesus meant that anyone who was willing to serve him in any humble way is ‘great’. He did not use the word ‘greatest’, which means ‘the most important’. The people who serve Jesus must not compare themselves with one another.

John’s comment about the man who was casting out demons raises a question about his motivation. Where the apostles envious of the man’s success? They had just failed to cure a boy possessed by a demon. Was he simply being protective of the right of the Twelve to work wonders in Jesus’ name? The man who was casting out demons was not a member of the Twelve. But he was a friend of Jesus. Jesus ends this dialogue with an aphorism which is a core principle of the relationship between God and his people: God’s power to free his children from the power of evil spirits is not limited to Jesus and his companions. “For whoever is not against you is for you.”

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

Neither the child nor the miracle worker are named. It's as though you can be and act so completely in the name of Jesus that your own name is transcended.