In today’s Gospel, we have the disciples arguing among themselves because they find they don’t understand Jesus’ message. And then that degenerates into a further argument about which one of them was the greatest. They’re doing an awful lot of arguing, and not nearly enough listening.
All of this arguing betrays a real lack of growth in faith among those disciples. They probably felt like, since they were in Jesus’ inner-circle, they should have all the answers. And perhaps they should, but to their defense, they hadn’t received the Holy Spirit yet. In a real sense, they were still in formation, and they shouldn’t have been so afraid to ask Jesus for clarification, rather than start petty arguments.
Jesus’ lesson to them then comes from him putting a little child in their midst. Receive a child like this in my name, he tells them, and you receive me. What’s the point of that? Well, receiving a child in Jesus’ name is an act of service, because a child can do nothing but receive at that point in their life. So serving others in Jesus’ name, serving those who cannot serve you back, or at least in a way that they can’t return the favor, is what brings us to the Father.
I think the take-away for us is that trying to be smarter than everyone else isn’t what shows that we are faithful people. Instead of arguing our point, we need to ask God to help us get the point. And we have to be ready to act on our faith, serving others out of love for God, instead of arguing or debating what Jesus is making plain as day.