The Servant of All
Twenty Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

In the Gospel Reading today, Jesus teaches his disciples how a Christian should act. He says that whoever wants to be first, whoever wants to follow in the Lord’s footsteps, must become the last. In other words, whoever is served by others must serve others. This, of course, was contrary to the teachings of many of the great religions of Jesus’ time. It is also contrary to the thinking of many people in our world today. In order to reinforce his teaching, Jesus took a child a placed him among the His disciples. He embraced the child and firmly declared that whoever welcomes a child such as this in His name welcomes and serves Jesus Himself.

These are words that can not be understood unless we listen to them in the light of a profound faith in the bounty and mercy of God. In Jesus time, children – especially children who were poor or who had been orphaned or abandoned by their parents – were not considered to be important members of society. In fact, children had no rights at all except those that adults gave them. So Jesus is really saying that to serve a child, to serve anyone who is poor, ill or abandoned by society, is to serve Christ Himself and the One who sent Him, God the Father. Whoever wants to become a disciple of Jesus must listen intently to what the Lord says and put His teaching into practice. Of course the world, in general, has not always understood this in the past much less in our times when it seems that violence, selfishness, and an inordinate desire for material wealth are considered to be the top “virtues.” Today it is thought that being important, being great in the eyes of friends, acquaintances and the public in general, having a lot of money, living in great luxury, having prestige and power are the most important things in life. But I tell you that all of those things pass. They end. Yet the Word of the Lord does not and can not pass because it is as eternal as He is.

On another occasion Jesus said "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (MT 19:14) In other words, if we do not become as humble, innocent and dependent on God as little children are on their parents we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. In a loving family, children have a simple relationship with their parents based on trust. They truly love their parents and they feel loved by them. That same loving, trusting relationship is what should exist between us and God, our Father. This simple bond with God, our Father, this experience of faith and love that ultimately leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven is what we Christians call religion. That is why Christians cannot understand people who use violence to further their religion.

Seeking rewards seems to be something that is normal in the lives of human beings. It seems that it has become a virtue. It is seen as good if a student tries to get the best grades in class, if a writer or poet tries to win a prize, if a sports figure does everything possible to beat the world record. Being triumphant in science, the arts or sports is not something that is negative. It is positive. But in this, as in all human activities, there is always a danger. Vanity and pride may end up overcoming the winner. If this happens in life’s activities, how much more danger is there when we try to serve God or our neighbor?

Jesus refers to this danger when he invites us to practice humility, to set aside personal ambitions, to serve God and our neighbor with the same sincere and simple spirit that children show towards their parents.

Brothers and sisters. If we truly want to be the first in the Kingdom of Heaven, if we really want to be pleasing to God and do His will, we should listen to the counsel that the Lord gives us in our Gospel Reading today: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last and the servant of all.”