“Those who wish to be first,
shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”
MK 9: 30-37
Despite all that they have seen and heard, the disciples are still clueless when it comes to Jesus' mission and vision. They have walked with him, talked with him, prayed with him, listened to his teachings, witnessed his miracles, and yet they still bicker over their own ambitions. Afraid to question him about his predictions regarding his passion and resurrection, instead they resort to arguing over who is the greatest. While Jesus speaks of the Cross, they are imagining their own glory. Though he has openly told them that he will be "handed over," be rejected by the religious establishment, made to suffer greatly, be put to death and rise from the dead, they are preoccupied with being "Number One." We hear in our second reading that
Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice"
(Jas 3:16). How disappointed Jesus must be that his chosen followers are opening themselves to their worst inclinations, that they are thinking more about their own status than the dreadful events lying ahead of him!
It is the child who represents the transformation of consciousness that Jesus expects of his disciples. While the Twelve exhibit the old consciousness of selfishness and greed, the archetypal child is unschooled in the ways of the world, still innocent enough to remember The Garden of Eden and what it was like to walk with God. In his poem,
Ode on Intimations of Immortality,
the English poet William Wordsworth explains how each of us comes from God who is our home
"trailing clouds of glory"
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy!"
but as we grow, so does the prison-house around us, because we begin to imitate the egotistical attitudes and behaviors of our elders. As we age, all we are left with are shadowy recollections of grace. Clearly, this is what has happened to the Twelve: worldly values occupy their thoughts, promoting rivalry, jealousy and anger amongst them. Their ambition blocks them from seeing Jesus' mission and from understanding the cosmic spiritual drama in which they are participating.
And what of us? If the Kingdom of God belongs to the little ones who can still see celestial light, what must we do to recover spiritual sight, to see as God sees? What are the veils that obscure the Presence of God which is all around us, above us, beneath us, to the side of us, behind us, ahead of us? What are the cracked mirrors that distort our reflections, making us imagine that worldly acclaim and material possessions will make us "bigger and better" than we are? Or that make us see ourselves as small, insignificant, unattractive and generally useless? What is the magnifying glass that keeps us fixated on others' faults while ignoring our own moral failures? We need to see ourselves and others as God sees -- through the transforming Light that can heal all ills, mend all imperfections, soothe all fears and restore the Dream-- God's Dream.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- To what extent have you retained "the clouds of glory" that accompanied you into this world?
- What factors disconnect you from these "clouds of glory"?
- What changes need to happen for you to recover the gift of spiritual sight?