Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
The second part of this Sunday’s Gospel invites a commentary of pious drivel.
Did humanity need Jesus to tell us to be humble or to be kind to children or to each other? As a firm believer in the inspired nature of Scripture and in the truth of the Incarnation, this is simply unbelievable to me.
Every major religion comes to the same principal conclusion: All of creation, including humanity, emerges from the same Source and returns to the same Source. We have a divine inheritance. In Eastern religions, this is usually expressed as full-blown identification: humanity is part of the divine. The self is just part of the great Self in the Hindu Upanishads. The recognition that the ego is illusion is a major goal in Buddhism. In Western religions, the divine remains distinct from us, but there is a tight connection: God made us in His image, God declared us His own at Mount Sinai and that He would dwell with and within us, His Son became incarnate – both human and divine, Jacob’s ladder formed a bridge between earth and heaven, and at Jesus’s death the veil between the Holly of Holies and the rest of the world would tear in two.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus declares that he will die and rise again. He returns to the Source and emerges from It effortlessly and the implication is that we will too. This is immediately followed by an exhortation to understand that any sort of dualism is simply wrong: there is no greatest or least, blessed or cursed, there is not even a distinction in the mind of God between sinner and saint. How would we live if we understood this in our bones? We would be compassionate - not because it is commanded by a demanding god ready to punish us for failure; and not because it will benefit us in an afterlife, but because we are all one and one with God. When we receive a child, we receive ourselves, we receive each other, and we receive God.