“Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Dear disciples of Jesus: Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Amen. The key mark of discipleship is servanthood . Observe a tree, said St. Augustine, how it first tends downwards, that it may then shoot forth upwards. It fastens its root low in the ground, that it may send forth its top towards heaven. But without humility it will not attain to higher things.
Discipleship then means to have strong roots deep into the ground, deep in the earth to grow like a tree very well rooted and then, firmly, reach higher. We need, according to St. Augustine, to be deeply rooted in Christ and in the world, where the incarnation took place, to grow to heaven and to God. Many times, Christians focus their attention more on heaven than on earth, more on the house of the Father than on our home here on earth.
St. Augustine tried to prevent us from committing this mistake. If you want to really be spiritual and really committed to a life of discipleship, you need to have your roots very deep in this life following the example of Jesus´ incarnation. Only then you are ready to reach higher levels of spirituality to the point of entering the house of the Father in heaven. You will be at the end of your life a person who lived a Christian life very well-rooted in Christ in this world.
Yes, Jesus was talking about his imminent passion and sacrifice for the world while his disciples were discussing who would be the first minister, the chief of staff, the prince, the high priest, etc.
Putting the disciple’s aspirations in the terms that St. Augustine described discipleship, it shows us that the disciples wanted to go higher, but they did not want to have deep roots in the ground through a life of service, because they immediately noticed that to go deep in the ground meant to die and be buried, meant the cross and what Jesus prophesied about himself suffering in Jerusalem. They needed to learn that nobody goes higher in a life of discipleship without going deeply into the ground first.
In Jesus´ teaching, the concept of service grows out of his concept of love for one´s neighbor.
When people were debating rank and privilege, Jesus challenged that debate saying: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
The child then is used as an example of the “little” and insignificant ones whom followers of Jesus are to receive. Disciples here are primary not to be like children but to be like Jesus who embraces them. It is Jesus, not the child, who here demonstrates what it means to be “servant of all.”
Jesus is changing the emphasis of why we are serving. For Jesus we are serving because that is the mark of discipleship, not because we aspire to a rank or seat of honor in his kingdom.
Only a person deeply rooted in this world and loving the people of this world to the point of serving the most insignificant and vulnerable people of this world can -according to Jesus- be able to understand the next world and enjoy the fullness of the kingdom.
This is the amazing revolution of love that Jesus is bringing to the world and to us day after day; he is inviting us to discover the presence of the miracle in the ordinary life and in the present world. And the miracle is this amazing love that is always moving us to serve. Serve God serving others without expecting any reward for this service. Serving God loving the world and the people that God has created; serving God preaching, praying, giving, inviting, opening our hearts and declaring that we are always ready to find Jesus when we find our neighbors.
Here we are, receiving the most amazing invitation of the world, the invitation to be deacons and servants of the king that came to us to serve and teach us with his example of service how loving and beautiful the love of God is.
Thanks be to God for the divine love revealed in Jesus´ servanthood.