‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all’ (Mark 9:35)
Self-centeredness can be the greatest of all impediments to faith. If we put ourselves in the most important place in our world, there is little room for God. And there can be little room for others, or our concern for them. If we focus on ourselves, the most important goals in life can be getting our own way and pushing ourselves ahead of others.
The situations that reward our desires will then be seen as good, and any situation that leaves our ambitions unfulfilled can be a cause of anger and frustration. Self-centeredness turns us away from God as we seek gratification on our own terms instead of receiving divine love from beyond us.
The disciples were arguing with one another on the way to Capernaum, and Jesus asked about their dispute. But they were afraid to tell him, because they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. That was their ambition, and their shame. Instead of berating them, Jesus gave them (and us) a lesson in humility. He told the disciples that whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all, and then he put a child among them.
Holding the child, he told them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me” (Mark 9:37). Instead of jockeying for position or competing to edge each other out, the disciples are called to be last of all and servants of all. And in their humble service for others (like the small child), they will serve God. As St. Benedict urged the members of his community to find Christ in the guest and in the ailing member of the community, we can serve God with humility by reaching beyond ourselves and serving others.
Look it Up
See the prayer for the poor and the neglected (BCP, p. 826). See also the prayer for the oppressed (BCP, p. 826), which asks for God’s help “to eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors.”
Think About It
How do you find God in others? How do you serve God in others?