Sunday, September 23, 2018

Arguing on the Way

“What were you arguing about on the way?” This question asked by Jesus in today's gospel and met with a stony silence then is still being asked of us, each one of us here individually and corporately as members of Christ's body, the Church. “What were you arguing about on the way?”  The word “way” was the ancient name for the Christian faith, both as a theory and as people following in the footsteps of Christ along “the Way.” Following and arguing! The stony silence of the disciples is the silence of shame and embarrassment.

To admit that they were arguing about who was or would be the greatest might make them feel foolish in the light of the fact that Jesus had just finished telling them for the second time of his imminent passion and death: that as Son of Man he would drink the cup of suffering for their sake and for all people. They had heard him say it, but their concern and really their minds were elsewhere: on their own advancement in their little world of discipleship—perhaps something even better if this Jesus guy pans out and really does establish a kingdom. 

There is so much in the news today about the damage that egotistical people cause in our society, our Church and our political system. Today's readings help us to understand that none of this is anything new.  St. James tells us the problem and a solution. He says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” 

Jesus hugs a child and shows it to them. A child in that society was a nobody. He tells them to reach out in his name to all the people ranked by society as nobodies and serve them. This is certainly to go against the current cultural tide of contempt for the poor and oppressed in our nation and the world. “Losers!” people shout at them. Jesus tells us his disciples that if we wish to receive him and his Father into our lives, we have to begin by ourselves receiving the nobodies, that is, those we think are nobodies because of our foolish delusions of grandeur, and worse, our self-delusions of goodness and holiness.
The Lord of the Universe becomes a nobody in the Eucharist. Pure being, infinite Trinitarian life and love, the glorified humanity of Christ become manifest to us by faith in a little piece of  consecrated host that we receive into our very selves that we may all together grow in our graced identity as the Body of Christ. We can all stop arguing along the way, for He, Jesus Christ, is the Way.

Fritz von Uhde, Let the Children Come to Me, 1884Excerpts from Father Luke's Sunday Homily