Sunday Gospel reflections: The way to Christian greatness

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

A victorian stained glass image from a church in Wales. Photo: KevinHolt/iStock

When I was a young boy, I secretly wished — against all the evidence — that everyone would think I was the best player on our baseball team. I also had the secret desire that one day my teacher would say, “You are the best student in the class. In fact, you are the best student I have ever had!” Now, of course, I have put such juvenile fantasies behind me. Although, I have to admit, I would love to see a billboard that said, “Best Dad ever!” with my photograph.

So it’s oddly comforting to read today that Jesus’ 12 closest friends and disciples were not above squabbling over who was the greatest of them all.

And Jesus’ response is both reassuring and challenging. He did not criticize them for their pride or self-delusion. Instead, he looked deep into their hearts and responded to what he saw there — their idealism, their desire to do good, their wish to be his faithful followers. He simply ignored the immature way it showed itself.

Jesus showed them that the way to Christian greatness is simple. You don’t need a golden halo, or the skills to explain profound theological insights, or a wardrobe full of sackcloth and ashes. The way is as close as the person right beside you, right here, right now. Truly and deeply welcome that person, in all their messy humanity, as Jesus truly and deeply welcomes us.

Patrick Gallagher


Wisdom: 2:12, 17–20

Psalm: 54:3–4, 5, 6 and 8

James 3:16–4:3

Mark 9:30–37

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