The Gospel according to Luke (9:46-50)
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Reflection: Putting this Gospel in simple terms, the Apostles were Jealous. We see this same jealousy in our lives every day at work, on the news, social media and certainly the church. It’s all about the desire for power, control, and fame.
The Apostles were upset because the person casting out demons was not part of their group. Jesus’ own disciples, even in his presence, show unpleasant signs of ambition, as they jockey for key positions of influence. In other words, the Apostles were not able to be in charge of this person.
Allow me to put it in our terms today. Say someone is in charge of a ministry at church and another person or persons start up a new ministry. The new ministry is quite successful and, as a result, those who have been working in the older more established ministries may get upset and a bit jealous. This may seem silly but it’s also reality. It happens all the time, not only within a church setting but also in our daily lives. When we see someone else doing something that is successful or bearing good fruit, we may get envious or jealous.
The only ‘antidote’ to this kind of arrogance is humility. Jesus points to the dependence of the child as our model. It is moving to see Jesus taking pains to teach the disciples these basic lessons, repeating the same lesson again and again. Wouldn’t it make sense to combine your efforts and energies so we could become an even stronger ministry? That is something hard for us to do. We are not built that way BUT … we are capable of doing it.
This is one of the incidents in the Gospels where the disciples are caught seeking status in a rather childish way. Our Lord takes the chance to point out implicitly, through the example of a child that greatness is never found in gaining power, but in conforming one’s life to that of His. If that is achieved, one is great no matter how one’s life is otherwise. This was something which the disciples had yet to learn but they did learn eventually.
In this case, with the Apostles, Jesus is quite understanding and compassionate about the whole thing. But He is also quite clear. “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” Do you see things in life this way? When someone does well do you rejoice or are you negative? When another does good things in Jesus’ name, does that fill your heart with gratitude that God is using that person for good, or do you get envious?
Action of the Day: While driving in your car, turn off your radio and in silence ask yourself how you can combine your efforts with someone else to make yourselves stronger. It could be at work, at home, at church, wherever.