Lectio Divina: Luke 9:46-50
1) Opening prayer
You show Your almighty power
in Your mercy and forgiveness.
Continue to fill us with Your gifts of love.
Help us to hurry towards the eternal life You promise
and come to share in the joys of Your kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 9:46-50
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Then John said in reply, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company." Jesus said to him, "Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you."
• The text enlightens us. If Luke had previously presented the convergence of the men around Jesus to recognize Him in faith, to pay attention to Him and to be present to His cures, now a new stage is opened in His public itinerary. The person of Jesus does not monopolize the attention of the crowds any more, but He is presented as the one who is slowly being drawn away from His own to go toward the Father. Such an itinerary foresees His journey to Jerusalem. And while He is about to undertake that journey, Jesus reveals to them the destiny that is awaiting Him (9:22). He is then transfigured before them to indicate the starting point of His “exodus” toward Jerusalem. Immediately after the light that He experiences in the transfiguration, Jesus once again announces His Passion, leaving the disciples uncertain and disturbed. Jesus’ words on the event of His Passion, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the power of men” (Lk 9:45), they did not understand and they were afraid to ask Him.
• Jesus takes a child. The enigma of Jesus being delivered caused a great dispute among the disciples, as they wondered to whom the first place would belong. Without being asked His opinion, Jesus, who, being God, knew how to read hearts, intervenes with a symbolic gesture. To begin, He takes a child and places him at His side. Such a gesture is an indication of election, of privilege, that is extended at the moment that one becomes a Christian (Lk 10:21-22). So that this gesture will be understood, and not baffling, Jesus gives a word of explanation: the “greatness” of the child is not stressed but is an inclination to “acceptance”. The Lord considers “great” anyone who, like a child, knows how to accept God and His messengers. Salvation presents two aspects: the election on the part of God, which is symbolized by Jesus’ gesture, who accepts the child, and the acceptance of the one who has sent Him, the Father of Jesus (who is the Son) and of every person. The child embodies Jesus, and both, in their smallness and suffering, realize God’s presence (Bovon). The two aspects of salvation are also indicative of faith: in the gift of election the passive element emerges; in service, the active one emerges; two pillars of Christian existence. To accept God or Christ in faith has the consequence of total acceptance of the little ones on the part of the believer or of the community. “To be great,” which the disciples were talking about, is not a reality of something beyond, but it refers to the present moment and is expressed in the “diaconia” of service. Lived love and faith fulfill two functions: we are accepted by Christ (takes the child); but also we have the particular gift of receiving Him (“anyone who accepts the child, accepts Him, the Father”, v. 48). A brief dialogue follows between Jesus and John (vv. 49-50). This last disciple is considered among Jesus’ intimates. The exorcist, who does not belong to those who are intimate with Jesus, is entrusted the same role that is given to the disciples. He is an exorcist who, on the one side is external to the group, but on the other, is inside the group because he has understood the Christological origin of divine force that guides him (“in Your name”). Jesus’ teaching is clear: a Christian group should not place obstacles to the missionary activity of other groups which are true to the teachings of Jesus. There are no Christians who are “greater” than others, but one is “great” in being and in becoming Christian. Then missionary activity has to be in the service of God and not to increase one’s own fame or renown, or to proclaim distorted beliefs and interpretations. That emphasis on the power of the name of Jesus is of crucial importance: it is a reference to the liberty of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is certainly within the Church, but it can extend beyond the instituted or official ministries.
4) Personal questions
• How do you, as a baptized believer, understand success and suffering?
• What type of “greatness” do you live in your service to life, to people? Are you able to change competition into cooperation?
• Do you recognize those in society today who use Christianity or missionary activity for personal fame or personal gain?
5) Concluding Prayer
I praise Your name Lord for Your faithful love and Your constancy;
for You have exalted Your word and Your name above everything.
You heard me on the day when I called,
and You gave new strength to my heart. (Ps 138:2-3)