By Michael Smith

Reading from the Gospel of Luke, 9:37-50

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44”Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” 45But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

46 An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, 48and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”

49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Meditation

During an election season, candidates spend much time and money attempting to convince voters that they are “greater” than their opponents. We understandably grow weary of such posturing and count the weeks until election day in the hopes that such bravado will come at least to a temporary end. In the meantime, Jesus has something to say about greatness in today’s gospel lesson.

In the middle of a debate about which of his followers is the greatest, Jesus moderates by demonstrating the action he desires from them. Jesus draws a little child to his side and says, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Hospitality shown to the weak, vulnerable, and defenseless is a sure sign of greatness in the kingdom of God.

In another place, Jesus tells us that what we do to the least of his sisters and brothers we do to him (Matt. 25:40). Picking up on this teaching, St. Benedict in his sixth century Rule for monasteries writes: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (RB 53.1). It sounds like those who aspire to greatness in the kingdom of God need to be diligent in acts of welcome and hospitality. Jesus gets my vote!

The Rt. Rev. Michael G. Smith served as Bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He and his wife, the Rev. Lisa White Smith, are the parents of three and grandparents of nine.

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