Luke 9:46 An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.”
When the disciples asked Jesus which of them would be the greatest, Jesus gave them an unexpected answer. Greatness wouldn’t be assigned based on “normal” kinds of things: one’s wealth or social status, one’s abilities, one’s connections, or one’s education. Greatness would be demonstrated by how one welcomes “this child”.
Children were marginal people in Jesus’ day, so to welcome a child would be to show grace and respect to the lowest people in the social order. In this sense, “this child” represents all those who were generally of low regard back then: widows, orphans, the sick, the alien, and so on. Welcoming such people, spending time with them, is what “great” people do in the Kingdom of God.
Today children are held in high regard, so welcoming them isn’t as strange today as it was in Jesus’ day. But there are others in our midst who are often considered “least”: the poor, the uneducated, the undocumented immigrant, the HIV positive, and so on. Jesus tells us that greatness, as far as he is concerned, is reflected in how we receive those whom our culture tends to reject. Why? Because when we receive the least of these, we receive him. And when we receive him, we receive the Father who sent him.
Lord Jesus, you tell us over and over that greatness in your kingdom is simply different than greatness in the world. To you, greatness is demonstrated by showing love and mercy and respect to people our culture tends to reject. In this spirit then, oh Lord, give us grace to be truly “great”. Amen.