Tuesday, October 01, 2013

How to Be Great in the Kingdom of God

Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels

By Colleen O’Sullivan
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”  He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 18:1-5, 10)

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory: rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)
As soon as the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest person in the Kingdom of heaven, he knows they are talking about themselves and that age-old desire for status and importance.

Instead of directly responding, Jesus takes a little child from the crowd and says to his followers, “Look closely at her.  She can’t do a thing for you.  And, yes, I know you find her annoying when she laughs or talks or cries during the synagogue service.  She wears diapers that have to be changed.  She needs her mother to feed her, dress her and keep her safe.  She is completely dependent on others for survival.  More than that, notice how she trusts that all that will be done for her.  If you want to be great in the Kingdom, be like her.  Have humility.  Admit that you are totally dependent on my Father for all the things that matter.  And believe that you will receive what you need.”  The Lord reminds the disciples that these little ones have angels watching over them in heaven, so these children should be cared for as though we are ministering to Christ himself.

If we truly desire to be great, we have to forget all the “greatness” advice we’ve ever heard.  Throw out Toastmasters’ suggestions on how to become a leader and “ignite your career,” any books on influencing people for our own ends, or tips for climbing the ladder to success.  In God’s Kingdom, all that gets turned upside down.

Jesus says to be great, we have to care about the “little ones” in our midst, the children and anyone else who can’t fend for themselves – the poor, the homeless, the elderly, undocumented immigrants, the mentally ill.  Take them into our hearts.  Minister to them and it will be just as if we are doing it for the Lord.  And, when we’ve done that, go a step further and be humble as they are.  Know who we are, and that’s not the center of the universe.  We are as dependent on God as the most vulnerable are reliant on us to look out for them.

Jesus laid down his life for us.  What self-interest could you set aside today to make room for helping a brother or sister in need?

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