Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
he did not wish anyone to know about it.
Why does Jesus so often wish to go about his mission in secret? Is it simply because he wants to delay his passion, or is there something more to it? He says “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). He says “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). Why is this such a common theme in the Gospels? Magnanimity is often akin to humility, but sometimes it seems like Jesus is going overboard. Could it be because he is reserving the Gospel for those who genuinely seek it for its most valuable merits? Not his miracles, not his wise and cunning teachings, not the esteem of others, but unconditional love which must go out of its way to prove its sincerity; that’s what God wants us to seek and obtain.
they were afraid to question him
So often I am afraid to ask God my most intimate questions because I don’t want him to judge me. How foolish that is, because God already knows what I am thinking. I should come to God with these deep questions, knowing that he put them on my heart because he wants to give me the answers I am looking for. So often in my meditations, I discover that I lack faith in one way or another. This time I see that I lack faith because I assume God doesn’t have the answers that will satisfy my heart. And, like the disciples, I want to be highly esteemed in God’s eyes, which means I hesitate to reveal my weaknesses to him.
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Here is the theme of Christ-like passion returning yet again. Keeping my relationship with God personal, so that he can love me and I can love him in ways that only he and I can understand, is a cornerstone of our love. When we love someone, we are willing to humble ourselves so they see us for who we really are. This is the kind of relationship to which Jesus is calling the Twelve. He wants them to strip away even their desire for esteem in Jesus’ eyes so they can be real with him. Nothing hurts our relationship with God more than our attempts to be the greatest in his eyes. This makes us fake. It makes us pursue righteousness for the wrong reasons. Seeking greatness makes us pursue our own idea of righteousness. Jesus wants us to die to ourselves so he may fill us with his holiness, the only kind there is. We reach this death-to-self state of being when we push ourselves beyond our human capacity so there is nothing left of us. So often I do not want to take those steps into my own passion. As long as I don’t take those steps into the unknown, where my strength ends and God’s begins, I will remain the ruler of my own life and God cannot take over. So often it is clear that this is what I prefer. However, despite how much it sounds like such a life provides more freedom, it makes me a slave to my own base passions.
Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me
Why does Jesus say this? Is it because children are simple-minded? No. It is because they are uncorrupted by the world. Jesus says we receive him when we receive a child because a child has only heaven to give in return. They are not bogged down by the worries of the world, and are more ready to share their imagination and dreams. They are closer to paradise. Somewhere along the way we stop seeing the search for God as playtime. We pursue much more ephemeral desires and lesser needs, thinking that’s what it means to “grow up”. God is a child at heart, though. The universe is his playground, and he delights in playing with his children in it. He loves how he can use the real world to teach us deeper spiritual realities, just like a father uses the steering wheel on the playground to start teaching his son how to drive. He uses parables all of the time to demonstrate to us what the kingdom of heaven is like. That is how he plays with us, not in a facetious way but in a loving way. He wants our pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty to be fun.
whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.
Jesus gently alludes to being sent by God. He does not directly say he is the son of God, but those who know the Scriptures understood the reference. Again, God does not intrude upon our hearts and will only reveal who he really is to those who have already proven their steadfastness in seeking God in their study of the Hebrew Scriptures. In a loving relationship, neither person wants to provide unwanted attention and affection. God cares about us so much that he gives us the distance we ask for, even if that means only revealing his son to those who genuinely want to to see and know his son.
You are a great God indeed. Help me to not seek greatness in vain, and to always point to you whenever I am complimented or commended. Reveal to me who you are so I may see that you are everything I seek. If my search is genuine, you reward me with sweet truth. Thank you for your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jesus is here ready to speak to you. Follow him into the quiet recesses of your heart where he sits down and invites you to sit beside him. He is our Lord and savior, and nothing else in the world will fulfill our hearts, our souls, our passions, and our desires better than him and the truth, goodness and beauty he has in store for us.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.