Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Afternoon meditation: A greater grace

Did you notice the little phrase in today's first reading, almost a throwaway line, in the first reading? James first writes about wayward desires, the kind that lead to envy and killing and war, and make a person an enemy of God. Then, in building toward his exhortation to humility, he says "he bestows a greater grace."

Whoever receives one such
child in my name,
receives me.
Then we have the Gospel, which is a two-fold (or even threefold) story. In scene 1, Jesus is foretelling his own death--but, as clear as the prediction is, his focus is not on what human beings will do. It is on  "a greater grace": "three days after his death, the son of Man will rise."

The apostles missed that. They were too busy establishing themselves in the first place. That was scene 2, a kind of backstory. It's almost a picture of James' earlier scenario. (They have yet to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.)

In scene 3, Jesus is sitting "in the house," setting the apostles straight. The top spots they are lusting after, Jesus says, go to those who "empty themselves and take the form of a slave"--or of a little child. Because there is "a greater grace" at stake.

By word and example, Pope Francis has been inviting us to take this Gospel to heart: to receive the little ones, the powerless and poor, as Christ; to make ourselves the servants of those around us--not with the disposition of a doormat, but with the attitude of someone who actually has something to give.

"If you only knew the gift of God!" Jesus told the Samaritan (John 4). My prayer today is to recognize the "greater grace" that is being offered me, especially when the goods I have my eye on don't come my way!

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