Who is the greatest? The apostles became stuck on that point, suffering from selfish ambition. It can happen to us too. We can become concerned only for our self, willing to do anything to get ahead. We can be filled with pride and a sense of entitlement. We can see others as competition, be jealous and envious. We can use others to our advantage. We can seek great wealth, status, power, prestige, popularity. These are some of the many ways that we can be absorbed by selfish ambition.
In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus defines greatness differently. In God’s eyes, Jesus says that to be the greatest, we must serve all—no selectiveness, no choosing. Our love must embrace all, including all that we see as inconvenient, difficult or problematic. In Jesus’ words, one can be the greatest if the heart has room for everyone.
For Jesus, it never mattered who was in or who was out, who was wrong or who was right. What upset Jesus most was injustice, exclusion and seeing people being neglected and hurt. Instead, Jesus asks us to replace jealousy, envy and selfish ambition with love, justice, and peace.
Mother Teresa is an excellent example of embracing and serving all. She embraced the giftedness of all people, including the abandoned. In welcoming them, she recognized God’s mercy and compassion for all. With new gratitude, she became more peaceful and gentle and merciful. May it be so for us too.