Today’s readings reveal to us what being a disciple of Christ requires. If we want to become great in the sight of God, then we must put away all personal ambition and surrender our lives to Him in the service of others.
In the first reading we find a messianic prophecy of Jesus’ fate at the hands of Jesus’ own people; Jesus as the ‘suffering servant.’ This passage refers to a righteous sufferer. It points to the way that Jesus will suffer and his crucifixion. It outlines how the world often ill-treats those who strive to live justly and do God’s will.
In the second reading, James is emphatic about the contrast between spiritual wisdom and earthly wisdom. The conflicts and disputes in which we embroil ourselves come from worldly desires, selfish ambition, and concern for what we want to possess in this world. This leads directly into today’s Gospel when the apostles argue about who will be highest in the Kingdom of God. It is a very human trait that we find in this Gospel account – arguments about who is the greatest, the best, the most valuable. Jesus also teaches the apostles that only child-like humility and selfless service make one great in the eyes of God.
To be viewed as great by God is to serve others humbly. Jesus presents a child before the apostles and explains that one who wishes to be first among them must be a servant to all. This service is for others and never about us. It requires the ability to see and respond to the needs of others and requires compassion and sympathy.
It is the essence of ministry in the Church and especially relevant to Deacons. Jesus tells us that the truly great person is a diakonos – a deacon – a servant – a person who devotes their time to others in service. This is an important message for us all. If we want to be first, we must be last. We are all supposed to be serving, whatever our position or role in society or family or in the Church may be, because true greatness lies in being like Jesus, the servant or slave of all.