Jer 18:18-20 Mt 20:17-28 (232)
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In Matthew 20:26-28, Christ mandates that if we wish to be the greatest we must be the least, if we want to dwell with God we must be slaves others. This has got to be one of the most shocking statements in the all of the Bible, because if we really take this radical passage seriously, much of our world will be turned upside down.
Our schools, professors, parents, and peers mandate something much different than Christ. We are raised with the pressure to be the best, the smartest, the brightest, and the most successful in all that we do. There isn’t a lot of glory for those who fail, for those who are not privileged or who do not value professional or academic achievement. This gospel quite simply contradicts that kind of value system. Luckily, Lent is a time for all people to think about many of the mysterious contradictions of Christianity—that suffering has value and that the “smallest” of people are most godlike.
When I spent my summer in Nicaragua with the Mev Puleo immersion program, the nine weeks went slowly and were crippling at first. You might think that my experience taught me how to be a servant for others through the service work that I did. On the contrary, this experience was very little about my feeling satisfied with or proud of my abilities and achievements, even if they were achievements for others. The experience was full of failures, full of depending on others in the way that servants and slaves must depend upon their employers or masters. I felt very little control, and this allowed me to realign my dependencies, turning them from my culture’s love of comfort and achievement so that I could learn to find solace in the goodness of others—my host family, the children I served, and the other homesick women who accompanied me.
There are many mysteries of Christianity – the sacraments, miracles, praying to a God who cannot talk back, and the crucifixion—but this statement that harkens to the “first shall be last” is one mystery that challenges our every day actions and attitude. As I prepare to graduate this year, my friends and I are constantly asked about our future plans. The future challenges us to determine what line of work or vocation will make us happiest. This passage asks us to do just this while also considering how to use the gifts we have to serve others and learn from those who our society labels as the last among us.
Senior majoring in Theology and Anthropology