25th Sunday O T Year B – 15
Wis.2:12, 17-20 / Jas.3:16 – 4:3 / Mk.9:30-37
Between a discussion, a debate and an argument, there are similarities and there are also differences.A discussion is a process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas.
An argument is an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one, with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.Whichever it might be, emotions are always involved.
A discussion can develop into a debate and then when the emotions get high it becomes an argument that can turn into a shouting match.And usually in small and petty arguments, it isn’t about who is right or wrong but who can shout louder and prevail over the other.
It’s also rather funny how after an argument is over, you begin tothink about more clever things you should have said (but a bit too late).In the gospel, Jesus asked His disciples what they were arguing about on the road.
They said nothing. Of course they said nothing because what they argued about was nothing intelligent but they argued about who was the greatest.And obviously each was trying to prove that he is the greatest by the volume of his voice, so much so that it reached the ears of Jesus.
But when they were confronted by Jesus, they became silent.But it was only when they were silent that they were ready to listen. It is interesting to note that “silent” and “listen” are made up of the same letters.
And it was when they were silent that Jesus used the occasion to put the disciples on the right direction, and explain his teaching on true greatness. This may also apply to us because greatness is everyone’s aspiration. We have the desire to be remembered as someone who is great.
For instance, fathers want to be remembered by their children as “great fathers;” mothers also want to be “great mothers.” Students, professors, office managers, national presidents, and leaders would always aspire for greatness. Indeed, we really want to be great!
Now, this is what Jesus tells us about greatness:First, we can be great in powerlessness. Powerlessness is greatness. This appears as something different because the common understanding of greatness is power. You can be great if you have the power.
This was the disciples’ understanding of a Messiah; he is a triumphant Messiah, not a suffering Messiah. So, when Jesus talked about his own passion, they never cared to listen or to understand it.
Second, to be great is to be a servant of all. This is also going against the conventional because, normally, leaders want to be served. We feel great when we just sit down while others are serving us. But for Jesus that is not greatness. True greatness can be found in service.
This may be hard to understand because in a “master-servant” relationship, each is situated on two different and opposing poles. It appears that it is impossible for a master to serve.
Third, the quality of greatness can be found in children. Children are generally humble. They are also dependent on their parents. They cannot live without their parents. Their dependence is so total. The greatness of a person can also be found in his total dependence on God.
So Jesus taught them that if anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last and the servant of all.And then He took a little child and set him in front of them and told them that anyone who welcomes one of these little ones would be welcoming Him.
In other words, anyone who would be as humble as a little child would be able to listen to the teachings of Jesus and attain greatness without having to prove it.And there is also no need to try to win an argument in order to prove that one is great.
There is this story of Mother Teresa who went around begging for food for the orphans that she was taking care of.One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in her face and refused.
Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?”The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted.
Truly it was an example of greatness in the face of insult. And there is no argument about that.As we think about it, we may realize that most of the time, we react and enter into an argument with others and may even end up fighting for nothing and over nothing.
And that’s what St. James tells us in the 2nd reading when he says this – Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it, so you are prepared to kill.
You have an ambition you cannot satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force.Yes, when we look at what is happening in the world, we can see that there are people who would resort to violence and even killing and they think that it is great to do so.
There is a story of a holy man who was threatened with death by a bandit.The holy man calmly said, “Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish – Cut off the branch from the tree.”With one slash of the sword, and it was done. “What now?” the bandit asked.
“Put it back again,” said the holy man.The bandit laughed, “You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that.”The holy man replied, “On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are great and mighty because you can wound and destroy.
But true greatness and might would know how to create and heal.” Certainly, it is very brave to talk like that to someone who is wielding a sword.But true greatness is also having the courage and the wisdom to speak the truth with love.
Because to speak the truth with love requires the wisdom that can be attained only with the humility of a little child.As the 2nd reading puts it, it is a wisdom that comes down from above and it makes for peace and it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good, and there is no trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.
Yes, we need to be humble and ask for the wisdom from Jesus in any discussion or debate or even in an argument.With the wisdom from Jesus, our discussions and debates and even arguments will bear fruits of peace and even help others to grow in holiness.
Between a discussion, a debate and even in an argument, the difference lies with Jesus and in Jesus.So we must become great through loving, humble, self-giving service. Greatness, in Jesus’ view, is found in our willingness to accept,welcome and serve with love those who are considered unacceptable and undeserving by reason of class, color, religion, poverty or culture.
We must welcome people the loving way a child welcomes them before he is taught discrimination.If we are to be truly great, we must be ready to accept four challenges: (a) to put ourselves last, (b) to be the servant of all, (c) to receive the most insignificant human beings with love, and (d) to expect nothing in return.
During the holy Mass let us pray for the true spirit of service, for an attitude of love for those around us. Amen.