Sunday, September 30, 2012

Least Among All of You

Least Among All of You

1 October 2012

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church

"Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!"  In all this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.
  Job 1:21-22

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."  Luke 9:46-48


Divine Scripture calls to us saying: "Whoever exalts themselves shall be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves shall be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14)." In saying this, therefore, it shows us that every exaltation is a kind of pride, which the prophet indicates has been shunned, saying: "O God, my heart is not exalted; my eyes are not lifted up and I have not walked in the ways of the great nor gone after marvels beyond me (Ps. 13:1)." And why? "If I had not a humble spirit, but were exalted instead, then you would treat me like a weaned child on its mother's lap (Ps. 131:2)."

Accordingly, if we want to reach the highest summit of humility, if we desire to attain speedily that exaltation in heaven to which we climb by the humility of this present life, then by our ascending actions we must set up that ladder on which Jacob in a dream saw "angels descending and ascending (Gn. 28:12)." Without doubt, this descent and ascent can signify only that we descend by exaltation and ascend by humility. Now the ladder erected is our life on earth, and if we humble our hearts God will raise the ladder to heaven. We may call our body and soul the sides of this ladder, into which our divine vocation has fitted the various steps of humility and discipline as we ascend. 

(Rule of St. Benedict: Insight for the Ages, translated by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, Chapter 7)


We have many ways to measure a person.  Of course, height and weight figure prominently.  From the youngest days, the doctors place our height and weight on charts to see how we stack up to the law of averages and percentiles.  As we age, the insurance companies and actuaries use such tables to assess the risk that they might have to pay out our personal lottery (insurance policy) earlier than expected.
We also measure our out our academic achievement by test scores.  We measure out economic status by salary and bank account balance and where we live.
Jesus does not use those with military power, economic power or physical prowess to show the disciples the path to perfection.  Instead, he uses children.  Children are among the least powerful, weakest, and most dependent of any class of people on earth.  Just as the very Lord himself gave up his heavenly/spiritual identity to become a baby in his mother's womb,  so too must we take up the lowly, power-less-ness of a child if we want to find the path to peace.


The other night, while we were waiting to meet friends at a nearby restaurant, I was noticing the kinds of cars which kept coming into the parking area.  SUV was the number one body style.  Mercedes-Benz the number one car maker.  Yet, within just a few miles of this area, we could have come across dozens of people and families who were homeless.  They would be pleased to share in a fraction of the wealth that was parked in that lot.
What is your lot?  How does the world measure you?  GS-13. step seven?  22101?  How many Apple products does your household possess?  How many car keys slip around your key ring?  How many people report to your supervision at work?  How many diplomas are hanging on your walls?
Throw that all away.  Job learned that none of it mattered.  Yet, even when he lost it all, he never abandoned his faith in the Lord. 
As you go through the day, try to measure people by the faith you see them exhibit in their piety, study, action, humility and obedience.  Ignore the wealth and power and status that you sense they possess.

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