Once upon a time, there was a show about some people stuck on a island. They represented a cross section of American society: some were talented, some were beautiful, some were smart, some were rich, and one guy was a goof off. They had to survive, find ways to shelter from the elements, find food, get along with each other in spite of their varied backgrounds. For the most part, it was OK although they fought from time to time. And there was one guy they wanted to vote off the island, the goof off who kept messing things up. You now the show I’m talking about: Gilligan’s Island.
I have a huge problem with reality TV: they put people in a place where they’re learning to live and work together for a short period of time, develop trust and comradeship in each other, in order to betray others eventually and get the prize for themselves. Who’s the executive producer of this show, Satan? Wish it were only TV. But we do wonder who’s the best, the smartest, the cutest, and even the worst from time to time.
So we should be surprised Jesus disciples are arguing about who’s #1? It’s only human. Who would they have voted off the island? I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas, who was bright and smart and trustworthy. But Jesus sends them a message that things aren’t what they seem to be, that God doesn’t look at us the way we look at each other. Jesus’ disciples are probably thinking about the Kingdom the Messiah is supposed to establish, what roles they’re going to have once they get in power. Jesus is telling them something very different when he talks about his upcoming passion and death. Talking about dying a shameful death, being erased from history. And when He finds out what they were talking about, he turns their world upside down.
By using a child as example, he puts the person regarded least at the top. Children weren’t given much attention in those days unless they were children of nobility, and even then things weren’t easy. They were only good for what they could do, and treated as objects. Using a child as example is a way Jesus calls his disciples to give up their selfish ambitions for power, to embrace powerlessness as He was going to on the Cross. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
Selfishness keeps us from community, what we want prevents us from seeing what’s good for all. This isn’t what Church is all about, what faith is all about. It’s about checking our egos at the door. It’s about putting ourselves at the service of others: the poor, the weak, the outcast and even people we want to vote off the island.
Communion in Christ brings us together. Communion in Christ makes us more than we are as individuals: it makes us our best selves, gives us all we could want, and puts our lives in perspective. A lot of the pain we cause ourselves is through our expectations. Christ wants us to focus on Him and what He gives us. Our challenge is to imitate His gift, take up our crosses and follow Him.