need to be first
25th Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Date Preached: September 23, 2018
What were you arguing about on the way? Jesus and the disciples were walking on the way back to Capernaum and when they arrive at the house, he asks them this question? What were you discussing on the way? He knew what they were arguing about, they were discussing who is the greatest, who is most deserving, who is the best? They are walking with Jesus who is talking about his upcoming suffering, death, resurrection and the disciples are having an argument over who is the greatest among them. What a disconnect.
All week along we are in a sense, walking with Jesus, then on Sunday we come home. As we come to the Sunday Mass, Jesus asks us the same question. What were you arguing about on the way? Who were you upset with? What were angry about? Where was there lack of peace in your family, at work, at school, on-line?
In the Letter of James in our second reading, James speaks out about envy and selfish ambitions. Speaks about conflicts and disputes among them. Challenges Christians then and now to examine where these conflicts and disputes come from.
Jesus gives the answer that is the key to overcoming these conflicts and disputes. He says “to be first, you must be the last and servant of all.” This is the key to freedom. When I do not always have to win, do not need to get recognition, do not need to be on top of others, do not need to beat others, not always angry about what I think I deserve.
We normally begin the Mass with a Penitential Rite. The confiteor, “I confess…” the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy”. Like the disciples in today’s gospel, we are confronted by Jesus who asks us, “what were you arguing about on the way?” Time for us to examine our lives. What conflicts, what disputes, what envy, what selfish ambitions? We need to look at ourselves honestly, is it not coming from our need to be first?
We see these disputes in many places. Families fighting over a will. Road rage when someone gets ahead of us. Resentments we hold on to for some seeming snub. Gossip we engage in to put down others and make ourselves look better.
“What were you arguing about on the way?” The question is, were we instruments of peace or were we sources of conflict, disputes, divisions? We need to be honest with ourselves.
Jesus puts a little child before the disciples, the smallest, the weakest. The world focuses on the biggest, the strongest, the so called winners. But the eyes of God, the focus of God is not there.
Are we free enough to be last?
A spiritual writer tells the story of a sufi, who once said about himself.
“I was a revolutionary when I was young, and all my prayer to God was, “Lord, give me the energy to change the world.”
As I approached middle-age and realized that half my life was gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to “Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in contact with me. Just my family and friends, and I shall be satisfied.”
Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, my one prayer is, “Lord give me the grace to change myself.” If I had prayed for this right from the start, I should not have wasted my life.
When Jesus says, to be first you must be the last, then we become free to let go of the need to win, to beat others, to come out on top by putting others down. This is the source of the conflicts and disputes among us.
So, do not pray to change the world or to change others. Pray to change yourself.