Yesterday (our) pastor preached a particularly insightful sermon. In fact, it startled me. It had to do with an incident in Mark's gospel in which Jesus' followers were engaged in a spirited debate over who among them was ‘the greatest.'
Jesus responds by taking a child and explaining to his upward-climbing followers that if one ‘welcomes’ a child, one welcomes him.
It occurred to me for the first time that the antidote that Jesus prescribes for those of us who are afflicted with the power-hungry/status-seeking/glory-grabbing virus is the simple act of ‘welcoming’ someone without status or power; someone who cannot benefit us in any way.
I wrote our pastor about it and he offered yet another insight: 'One of the things that I love about what Jesus said in this passage is that it makes doing great things so accessible. If greatness is only found in the athletic prowess of Lebron and Michael, or the intellect of Stephen Hawking, or the business acumen of Jeff Bezos, then the great majority of us can never hope to do great things. Yet welcoming those who the world deems insignificant - is something anyone can do if we can only set aside our desires to be great in the world’s terms.
I was once in the lobby of Phoenixville Hospital with a small group of high school students from an organization called ‘Future Leaders Today.’ I was training them on the art of welcoming and assisting people who enter the hospital.
One day, a local priest came by after visiting a parishioner who'd been admitted to the hospital. I introduced myself along with each of the young men present. He then took around 5-10 minutes with each of these 3 young men, inquiring about their lives, asking them about their hopes and dreams, and encouraging them in their role before quietly slipping away. Each of the young men beamed, having been reminded by the good father's unspoken homily, that they they mattered to him and to God.
I suspect that he doesn't even remember the incident, as it has likely repeated itself quite often, in his ministry. My hunch is that he displayed authentic greatness that day, because he is more interested in welcoming than climbing.
Put another way, he is great precisely because he isn't interested in being great.
All the best,