September 27, 2009


If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. – Mk. 9: 43

The drive to be egocentric, to save one’s own life, to be great, to lord it over others, & to harm others in order to save your self is the way of the world. These ways of thinking & acting have become internalized into a second nature. They are like a hand, a foot, an eye. If this drive is to give way to other-centeredness, losing one’s life for the Good News, being the least & servant of all, there must be clarity about what is at stake & a commitment to whatever surgery is needed. This is self-surgery, a voluntary sacrifice. So if we are going to perform it, we must be convinced of its necessity.

What is at stake is the relationship to God. This is what is most important – everything else is secondary. Staying related to God means life; breaking that relationship means hell. The way to stay related to God is to eliminate what breaks that relationship. The emphasis is not on what is being lost but on what is being preserved.

There are many variations on our “greatness” project. The hierarchical structure of society becomes a natural benchmark on how we are doing. If we are aligned with the powerful, or if we are wealthy & famous, or if we are respected & admired, the inner drive is satisfied. But if we are poor & unknown, the inner drive is frustrated. Of course, it always helps to have someone worse off than we are. If upward comparison frustrates the drive to be great, downward comparison gives it a boost.

How can Jesus encourage a drive to be least? If the way of service is to be undertaken, it must be accompanied by a sense of why service is true greatness; but there is no one way that consciousness of service as true greatness is awakened.

First we must recognize that the sense that we lack significance is what drives us to lord it over others. The real drive is not to be great but to fill that hole in the middle of us that is empty. This hole cannot be filled by the frantic strategies for greatness, but we keep trying. Somehow we have to discover our natural innate greatness given us by God. We desire greatness because we are already great. It is not a quest for what we do not have, but to become conscious of what we already are.

A school superintendent & a principal were conducting a review of an 8th grade teacher’s work. As they entered the classroom through the back door, they heard the teacher say to the tallest boy in the class, “Otto, would you please raise the window?” When he had raised the window, she said in a voice all could hear, “I don’t know what I would do without Otto. He is the only one who can raise that window for me.” After they had left, the principal said to the superintendent, “I hope you noticed what a beautiful & sensitive thing that teacher did for the boy named Otto. He is large for his age & very awkward. He is slow to learn & desperately needs encouragement. The window really didn’t need raising, but Otto needed to raise the window. He needed recognition.”

Her simple act of kindness showed Otto that he didn’t need to earn greatness. God had already given it to him. Can we say the same? AMEN!