The disciples were just like us. They were arguing about who was the greatest. Gets to be a favorite topic, especially with football season around. Even when we loose, “Must have been the referee’s fault.” Nobody’s as good as our team, because we are the best!
Clearly, Jesus was not a football fan. Some would argue, “Football had not been invested yet, otherwise He would have been.” Although they didn’t speak in terms of quarterback, tackle, linebacker—they certainly knew about competition—been around since the beginning of time. Jesus was well aware of the human tendency to compete. There is nothing wrong with wholesome, mud wrestling, bronco busting, or horse racing. But if someone is first that means someone is second. [I remember that when I was ten years old I came home to brag to my father that I had come in third place in a race. When he asked how many were running; I had to confess that there were only three of us.] Difficult to be last—to be the servant—sometimes the butt of the joke. Look what we do in the classroom—from elementary to university level—grades, test scores, top percent of the class. Got to make the mark. Very few ask if children have learned anything. Most are concerned with what grade they made. Forget about thinking capacity—who cares? Grades are what follow a person all their life. There are many reason that Jesus took a child and placed it in their midst. Perhaps one of the reasons was because they were discussing competition—who was greatest. Children are most impressionable. They are like sponges—absorbing everything—the good and the bad. Children look to adults for example. Remember that schools are supplementary to what is being taught at home—the first and most important school.
If all that a child learns is to compete—to get ahead—with no regard to the rights of others—then we will just have more the same—because that is the picture of the society we have created. As the political arena begins to get attention—notice the gibberish—rarely is the word “service” used. Profit—what will benefit America—what will put us ahead of everyone else—that’s the kind of talk that gets someone elected. Again, the children are watching. What used to be prime time on TV—family approved programs—considered decent for children are no longer safe. The language, the images, the subject matter is no longer appropriate. The worse part is that we allow such trash to continue.
We are all responsible. A child comes into the world clean—pure—ready to learn. Parents have the awesome vocation to be the first teachers of their children—to show them the different between right and wrong—good and evil. Not Catholic School—not CCD—especially not TV. Personal—step by step guidance is necessary. If both parents are working the challenge is more difficult. However, there can be no substitute for spending time with your children and nobody can take your place. Developmental years pass quickly and before we know—attitudes are formed. Keep in mind that prejudice and fear and violent behavior are all learned. Best time to make a difference is now, by example. To be a servant takes humility. Service starts at home. Swallowing our pride, even when we know we are right. Not raising our voice to win an argument. Anticipating each other’s needs. Service is doing simple stuff, but service is not simple. We all have excuses—reasons as to why some things are below our dignity. Remember that Jesus washed feet. When in doubt, always serve without complaining. Lots of energy is wasted on complaints. To serve without expecting anything in return—not even a “thank you” is to be like Christ.
If we want to be the first we have to be the last—be the servant.