September 20, 2009


If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. – Mk 9: 35

Once again our Lord takes the values of the world that we have all inherited & turns them upside down. How can we take Him seriously? Only a maverick mind could find this idea exhilarating. What does Jesus mean by ‘last?’

Dag Hammarskjöld, a wise & respected General Secretary of the United Nations, reflected on this question in his book Markings: “[People comment on] Jesus’ lack of moral principles. He sat at meal with publicans & sinners, he consorted with harlots. Did He do this to obtain their votes? Or did he think that, perhaps, he could convert them by such ‘appeasement?’ Or was His humanity rich & deep enough to make contact, even in them, with what in human nature is common to all [people], indestructible, & upon which the future has to be built?” Here “least” means the bare basic material that is common to us all.

The naked face of our shared humanity reveals the common Source of All – God the Father. This is what is most beautiful & most valuable. This is the greatest & the first, & at the same time it is the least. Therefore, the teaching becomes clear; when we become the servant of this last, welcoming what is common to all, we paradoxically are first.

In God’s wisdom, the aging process brings with it the opportunity to achieve a new & enriched perspective on the world, a more total view & a deeper insight into the true meaning of everything: of life & love, of world & God, of time & eternity. Such wisdom of mature age is different from sharp intelligence or mere information storage. It cannot be learned in books, nor can it be acquired in schools or universities. Only by a life-long process of gradual growth & maturing can this special wisdom of heart be acquired.

In the opening scene of Paul Claudel’s play, “The Satin Slipper,” a missionary who is the sole survivor of a shipwreck, has lashed himself to the main mast & is wholly at the mercy of the raging sea. As death approaches, he cries out, “Lord, I thank you for bending me down like this. Sometimes I found your commandments painful & my will in opposition to your rule. But now I could not be closer bound to you than I am. I am really fastened to the cross, but the cross on which I hang is not fastened to anything else. It is floating on the sea.”

Young or old, with each tick of the clock, we all move a moment closer to our common destiny. So now is the time to be attentive to our Lord’s call to child-like trust & confidence in His Word. Now is the time for all of us to regard each other as wondrous marvels of God’s creation. Now is the time to assign priority to “What can I give?” over “What can I get?” Now is the time for us to realize our potential as children of God. AMEN!