How much do we really compete with one another every day? How conscious are we of our actions in trying to be better than the other person? Indeed there are big, tangible rewards for being better. This world somewhat out of necessity adopted such a grading system. But is there a better way to live?
“They had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’” (Today’s Gospel)
The disciples were arguing with words but no doubt would have been justifying their argument by quoting their deeds, capacities and abilities. Today have we become more hypocritical in trying to be the better? Do we plot more in our hearts and use words to camouflage our true intention?
“Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill.” (Today’s second reading)
We are called to make our ‘self’ last. This does not mean that we hypocritically engineer ourselves to be last through a polite refusal to perform according to our capabilities. Rather it calls for us to wholeheartedly volunteer ourselves to care first for the people around. Every person is blessed uniquely with a set of gifts and talents. By this world’s standard of measurement the obvious inequality is unfair to begin with.
But our Creator justifies this with a plan and purpose for each person. This ‘unfairness’ according to our grading system will be equalized through an honest use of the gifts we are blessed with. The honesty of this use includes the sharing of its rewards. The Creator planned for a communal world. We begin life with seeds of unique capabilities. We plant them, work with maximum effort nurturing them and as we grow into the world we harvest its rewards and share them with this communal world.
Through our unique gifts, some will end up with material wealth, status, influence and power. Up to this point these are meant to happen. It is what we do with these harvests that causes arguments. Our gifts given and used are converted into tools of influence. With wealth and status we can contribute and build the communal world that God created. It is at this point that “fighting inside your own selves” begin. Our desire to want to be first actually break both systems down.
“Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.” (Second Reading)
At the end it is about which grading system we choose to believe in: a wise world with God or a world living without his purpose for us. Long ago this choice was put to a bet between Elijah and the Baal prophets. God won, so it’s better to be last.
25th Sunday Ordinary Time