Toward the end of his life, Albert Einstein removed from his wall the portraits of two famous scientists, Isaac Newton and James Maxwell. In their place, he hungpictures of Mahatma Gandhi and the medical missionary, Albert Schweitzer. When asked why he did this, Einstein explained that it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service.
This is precisely what Jesus tried to do for his disciples in today’s gospel. The disciples were preoccupied with success. That’s why they argued about who was the greatest. But Jesus challenged their attitude by placing a child in the midst. To serve a child, you see, could in no way bring them any worldly success. But it would make them great in the kingdom of God.
Like the disciples, our culture today often seems more concerned with success than it does with service. We see this attitude whenever children are perceived as obstacles to lifestyles and careers; it’s seen in crumbling relationships where people are focused only on their own needs; it’s seen whenever the workplace becomes a “dog eat dog” rat race; it’s seen whenever people do things simply to enhance their resume or college application; and it’s seen in the church whenever worship and prayer take a backseat to meetings, quotas, and agendas.
This may be the world’s way, but it is not our way. Jesus calls each one of us today to lives of service, and not the pursuit of success. As his disciples, we’re to be concerned not with self-promotion, but self-donation- with giving of ourselves for the benefit of others. Just as Jesus did for us on the cross; just as he does for us in this Eucharist.