September 19, 2021
We often compare ourselves to others and want to be first. This causes many conflicts. Is there a better path to true greatness?
- There is a part of us which wants to be first, the greatest or before others. Even in spiritual life, we want to be the holiest or the best. This competition can have bad consequences.
- The strength necessary to become great lies in love. Be simple, humble, affectionate to Jesus and to others. Obey His words.
- It is necessary to be like children with regard to loving, kindness, humility, simplicity and faith.
- Jesus says to become like children if you wish to enter His kingdom. Love children as they are angelical examples still at your disposal.
- He who welcomes a child in My name, welcomes Me, because I am in the innocent souls of children. He who welcomes Me, welcomes Him who sent Me, the most high.
- Earthly greatness comes by our own efforts often with the help of the devil. Eternal greatness comes above all from God when we are open to cooperating with Him.
- Humiliations, failures, struggles and trails can become opportunities for eternal greatness because they help us to be humble which opens the door to God’s grace.
If anyone would be first, he must be the last of all, and the servant of all. Whoever humbles himself, like this child, He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
“On the way they had been discussing with one another, who was the greatest?” Which one of them was the greatest? The apostles were very human like us. Do you ever find yourself comparing yourself to someone else? Who’s better? Are you better? Are they better? There’s a part in us which wants to be first, wants to be the greatest, wants to be before the others. And even in the Church, even a Church that exist here, it’s of course, talking about the apostles. And even in the Church, even in spiritual life, we want to be the holiest, the best. And that sense of comparison, of competition can have bad consequences. St. James today was talking about the conflicts that the envy, the wars and all the consequences that can have, like with Cain, killing his brother Abel. Because of him feeling that Abel had given a better sacrifice. So, this touches all of us. And so, today, I wanted to say St. Ignatius talks about how helpful it is to try to imagine ourselves in a Gospel, the Gospel situation. And so, there’s a meditation from Maria Valtorta today, the Italian mystic that I think can help us with this. I want to share that meditation and then have a few reflections on it. “I see Jesus walking along a country road surrounded and followed by His apostles and disciples, as He often does. (While I’m reading this, feel free to close your eyes if you want.) As He often does, Jesus is walking a few steps ahead of His disciples, only two or three steps not more, to be alone with His thoughts, as He needs tranquility after evangelizing for a full day. Behind Him on the other hand, the disciples have entered into an animated discussion. They are recalling the events of the day and they are rather heavy handed, and appraising other people’s faults and shortcomings. They are more or less severe in the fact that those responsible for the collection of the temple tribute extracted payment from Jesus. Peter, always impulsive, shares that it is a sacrilege because the Messiah is not obliged to pay the tribute. It’s asking God to pay Himself, he says and it’s not right. And if they do not believe that He is the Messiah, it becomes a sacrilege. Jesus turns around for a moment and says, “Simon, Simon, there will be many people who will mistrust me, even among those who think that their faith in Me is safe and unshakable. Do not judge your brother Simon, always judge yourself first.” Judas, smiling, ironically, says to Peter, who feels mortified and who has lowered his head, “That’s for you. Simply because you’re the oldest you always want to play the teacher. It’s not true that one’s merits are judged according to one’s age. Among us, there are some who are above you by knowledge and social power.” They thus enter into discussions on their respective merits, and some boast of being among the first disciples. Some base their preferential argument on the influential position they gave up to follow Jesus. And there are those who say that no one has the same rights as they have, because no one has turned so much by changing from a publican to a disciple. The discussion lasts a long time. And if I were not afraid of offending the apostles, I would say that it takes the tone of a real quarrel. Jesus pays no attention to them. He does not seem to hear them. And so, then they finally come to the little village, which I know is Capernaum. Jesus proceeds, the others follow Him discussing all the time. A little boy of seven or eight years runs, tripping after Jesus. He overtakes the noisy group of the apostles and reaches Jesus. He calls the master confidentially as if he were very familiar with Him. He says, “Jesus, will you let me come with you as far as your house?” “Does your mother know,” asks Jesus smiling at him kindly? Yes, she does. Is it true? Although smiling Jesus cast a piercing glance at him. Yes, Jesus, it’s true. Come then, the boy jumps for joy and takes the left hand of Jesus, who stretches it out to him. With how much loving reliance that child places his little hand and into Jesus long hand. Tell me a nice parable Jesus, says the boy skipping beside Jesus and looking up at him, his face shining with joy. Jesus also looks at him with a cheerful smile, His eyes sparkle with joy while He looks at the child. What will you do with a parable? It’s not a game. It’s better than a game when I go to bed. I think about it, then I dream of it. And the following day, I remember it and I repeat it to myself, to be good. It makes me good. Do you remember it? Yes, I do. Do you want me to repeat you all the ones you told me? You are smart, Benjamin, smarter than men who forget. As a prize, I will tell you a parable. The boy no longer hops about, he walks seriously, and as seriously as an adult. He does not miss one word or any inflection of Jesus, whom he watches carefully, without even worrying where he puts his feet. So, it’s a parable about the Good Shepherd, for lack of time, I won’t relate the whole parable. Then Jesus says, that is the end of the parable, Benjamin. Now, can you tell me who is that good shepherd? It’s you, Jesus. And who is the little lamb? It’s me, Jesus. But I will be going away now, you will forget me. No, Jesus, I will not forget you because I love you. Your love will come to an end when you no longer see me. Well, I’ll repeat to myself the words that you spoke to me and it’ll be the same as if you were present. I will love you and obey you that way. And tell me Jesus, will you remember Benjamin? Always. And how will you remember? I will say to myself that you promise to love and obey Me. And I will thus remember you. And will you give me your kingdom? I will, if you are good. I will be good. What will you do? Life is long. But Jesus, your words are very good too. If I repeat them to myself, and I do what they say I should do, I will be good all my life. And I will do that because I love you. When you love, it’s not difficult to be good. I do not find it difficult to obey my mother, because I love her. And it will not be difficult for me to obey you, because I love you. Jesus stops and looks at the little face, which is lit by love more than by the sun. Jesus’ joy is so deep that another sun seems to be burning in His soul and shining through His eyes. He bends and kisses the forehead of the child. He has stopped near a humble house with a well in front. Jesus sits down near the well where He is joined by His disciples who are still arguing over their prerogatives. Jesus looks at them. Then He calls them, come here around Me and listen to the last lesson of the day. You who have shouted yourself hoarse, celebrating your own merits and believe that you will gain a position according to them. See this child, he is in truth more than you are. His innocence gives him the key to open the gates of my kingdom. In his simplicity of a child he has understood that the strength necessary to become great lies in love. And that obedience, practiced with love, is required to enter My kingdom. Be simple and humble. Be affectionate, not to Me only, but to one another. Obey my words, all of them. Also the ones I’m speaking to you now, if you wish to reach the place that these innocent souls will enter. Learn from the little ones. The Father reveals the truth to them, but He does not reveal it to those who consider themselves wise. Jesus is speaking, holding Benjamin against His knees, with His hands on the boy’s shoulder. Jesus’ countenance is majestic. He is serious, not angry but serious, with the face of a teacher. So, Jesus is speaking about children, and we know that children in our time, many are attacked and killed in abortion, but also not just physically attacked, but the innocence of children is so under attack today so that this innocence of a child that Jesus is praising is more and more difficult to maintain. So, it goes on and later that night, Jesus gives a further explanation on the shore of the lake there at Capernaum. Come and listen, we will be parting shortly, and I wish to instruct you, to perfect you further. I heard you dispute today and not always charitably. I’ve already given the seniors among you the lesson, but I want to give it to all of you as well. And in will do the seniors no harm to hear it again. Little Benjamin is no longer here, standing against my knees, he is sleeping in his bed, dreaming his innocent dreams. But perhaps his innocent soul is here, among us just the same. But imagine that he or some other child is here, as an example for you. And I think it was much easier for the children to remain innocent at that time than today. So, Jesus goes on – each of you has in his heart, a fixed idea, a curiosity, a danger, that is to be the first in the kingdom of heaven, to know who the first will be, and at last the danger, the still human desire to hear the reply, you are the first in the Kingdom of Heaven, uttered by your obliging companions are by the master, above all by the master of whose truthfulness and knowledge of the future you are aware. Is that not so? The questions jump on your lips and dwell in the depths of your hearts. Your master for your own good yields to that curiosity. Although he lows giving assent to human curiosity, as this curiosity may teach you a good lesson. I will reply to it for this once. Although I abhor curious and disrespectful questions. You’re asking which of us will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I do not take into consideration the limit of us. And I extended to the frontiers of the whole present and future world and I reply, “he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, who is the least among men, that is, who is considered the least by men, the simple, the humble, the trustful, the innocent. That is a child or who he who can make his soul be like the soul of a child again. Neither science, nor power, nor wealth, nor hard work, not even good, hard work will make you the greatest in the blessed kingdom. It is necessary to be like children with regard to loving, kindness, humility, simplicity, and faith. Watch how children love Me and imitate them, how they believe in Me and imitate them. How they remember what I say and imitate them. How they do what I teach them and imitate them. How they do not pride themselves on what they do and imitate them. How they do not become jealous of me and of their companions and imitate them. I solemnly tell you that if you do not change your ways of thinking, of acting and of loving, and if you do not remold then on the pattern of children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. They know the essential elements of My doctrine as you know them. But how differently they practice what I teach. For every good action you accomplish, you say, “I did that, I did that.” A child says to me, I remembered you today. I obeyed for your sake. I loved. I refrain from quarreling and I am happy because I know that you are aware when I am good and you’re pleased. And watch children, when they are at fault, how humbly they confess, today I was naughty and I am sorry because I made you sad. And they do not find excuses. They know that I know they believe they are sorry because I am sorry. How dear children are to my heart. There is no plot, pride, no duplicity, no lust in them. Then I tell you once again, become like children, if you wish to enter My kingdom, love children, as they are angelical examples still at your disposal. Because you ought to be like angels. As an excuse, you may say, “we do not see angels.” But God gives you children as examples. And you have children among you. And if you see a child who is physically or morally forlorned and who may perish, welcome him in my name, because they are greatly loved by God. And He who welcomes a child in My name, welcomes Me, because I am in the innocent souls of children. He who welcomes Me, welcomes Him who sent Me, the most high. That gives a lot of light on the greatness of the vocation of parents to welcome a child. So now, just a few reflections. Jesus said, if anyone would be first, you know, that’s the chant. You know how many times we’re number one, if anyone wants to be, number one, he must be the last of all, and the servant of all. And St. Matthew, relating this passage recounts the words of Jesus, “truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So, Jesus is distinguishing two different greatnesses, the earthly greatness, which is very limited, and doesn’t last very long, and is very corrupted, (so many of them who are in high positions got there by corruption), from the greatness which is the greatness of the kingdom of heaven, which is pure, and immense, and will last without end. So, two different greatnesses. And who makes these two different greatnesses happen? The earthly greatness comes by our own efforts, with often with the help of the devil. But this eternal greatness comes above all from God, when we are open to cooperating with Him, because God delights in giving, His sharing His glory. So it’s a greatness that doesn’t come from pushing others down, from hurting others, from robbing from others, from pushing others behind me. But it’s a greatness that Jesus says that comes from serving. We think of the greatness as the one who gets the top and as others serving Him. Whereas Jesus says this is the greatness that comes from serving, and from giving. So, one effort destroys other people. The other effort, the greatness for the other effort, builds up and benefits everyone. What would a world be like when everyone was competing, to serve more, the others to give more of themselves to others, to let the others go before them? What would that world be like? It would be heaven. That’s what heaven will be, the kingdom of heaven. But it can already begin here. And we may feel discouraged because we said, well, how I don’t have the innocence of a child. But when Jesus invites us to become like a child, it’s not something that we can do by our own strength, by trying to force it. But it’s something that can only be done by God’s grace. That’s why St. Paul says, “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” So the spirit of a little child, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, has been poured out into our hearts, crying out Abba. So this is a grace that has already been given to you by the presence of the Holy Spirit already in you. So it’s not something you have to force, but it’s something that you have to cooperate with, the Holy Spirit, because it’s already in your heart, in your soul. But of course, it’s not the only thing is a struggle in us. Another encouraging point. So that that’s one point that it’s the Holy Spirit already is in you with this spirit of a child. But we need to then cooperate more with that spirit. And the other encouraging point, is that the very humiliations and failures, do you have any humiliations and failures in your life? I think we all have humiliations and failures, which seem to get in the way of greatness. But Jesus has revealed that those very humiliations and struggles and trials can become the opportunity for eternal greatness because they help us to be little humble, which opens the door to God’s grace. So that we can by accepting our littleness, and by serving others, we can open ourselves to this greatness. So, this greatness and this glory, you know, just like the NFL, how many teams end the year, with a victory? There’s really only one because all the other teams even if their last game in a regular season wasn’t a victory if they don’t go into playoffs they feel what they lost. And so only one does, there’s only room for one. And in so much of human competition, it’s really not very beneficial. It has a lot of losers. Whereas this is a greatness that everyone can participate in. The more we give, the more we get. So, it’s a very different path. And so, you could you ask yourself today, what is one way that I could put into practice this Gospel, this Gospel that we heard, what is one thing that I could do concretely? And we ask our Blessed Mother in this year of St. Joseph to help us on this path of the greatness that Jesus is calling us to. If anyone would be first, he must be the last of all, and the servant of all. Whoever humbles himself, like this child, He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Amen.