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(Part 4)


October 02, 2012
Today’s gospel: Matthew 18:1-10

When we believe in Jesus, God can use us to do greater works (Jn 14:12). Those who do greater works are looked up to as greater instruments. “Human beings swear by someone greater than themselves” (Heb 6:16a). “Unquestionably, a lesser person is blessed by a greater.” (Heb 7:7). Those then who do the greatest works are looked on as the greatest. And so it was natural, humanly speaking, that “the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (Mt 18:1).

Jesus surprised the disciples by answering, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:4). The greatest is the one who humbles himself like a child, who makes himself totally dependent on God, who does not seek status or power, who trusts completely in God, who serves rather than is served. Such was the very posture of Jesus, who was Lord and King but who served and gave up his very life.

To be a disciple of Jesus is not only to serve him as Master, but also to follow in His footsteps, to imitate him, to be like him. To do greater works, to be the greatest in the kingdom, is not only to be God’s powerful instrument of service, but also to become like Jesus himself. Which is harder--to do the works of Jesus or to live the life of Jesus? The disciples were empowered to drive out demons, but they were still jostling for positions of honor in the kingdom. God can use anyone, even a sinful instrument, to do His great works; we just need to make ourselves available. But God cannot force us to become like Jesus, to attain to the very holiness of God. That we need to strive for, desiring it with all our heart and going for it with all our strength.

What can help us in accomplishing the greater work of becoming like Jesus?

First, we strive for the very holiness of God. This is radical work. It is not just praying everyday, or reading the Bible everyday, or doing good to others. What Jesus says is that if any part of us causes us to sin, we are to get rid of it! (Mt 18:8-9). Jesus is not necessarily telling us to literally maim ourselves, but he is saying that sin is a very serious matter. Jesus wants to shock us into really thinking about how to avoid sin at all costs. Jesus wants us to make it to heaven, even if no longer whole, but holy.

Second, we look not only to our own righteousness but also to those of others. We avoid whatever action will lead to a disciple weakening in or losing his faith. We avoid causing another to stumble. We avoid scandal. Jesus issues a stark warning: “Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Mt 18:7). We are all sinners, and we sin due to the weakness of our flesh, the allure of the world, and the attack of the evil one. But let it not be your fault that another sins. If it is you who causes another to sin, then not only is it better to lose a hand or foot or eye, but “it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Mt 18:6).

Third, we do not despise any of our fellow disciples (Mt 18:10a). We are all part of the one body of Christ on earth. We are journeying together. We are our brother’s keeper. We assist one another along the path of faith and holiness. We see the inherent dignity of everyone as a child of God. We value the work done by anyone, even those who are seemingly the least in works. If everyone has a guardian angel who represents him before God (Mt 18:10b), who are we to diminish the worth or work of anyone?

As disciples, we look to Jesus, striving to be holy as he is holy, and we look to our brethren, seeing Jesus in them. If we do so, then we will not have to worry about a great millstone around our neck, but rather, we can expectantly and joyfully look forward to the greater works that God will enable us to do.

BE.LI.EV.E, and know that faith works wonders.

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