SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 31:1-8; Dt 32:3-4, 7-9; Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14 ]

The disciples asked the Lord, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  This, too, is also our question.  We are insecure people and we tend to measure ourselves in terms of who is greater, more beautiful, more talented, more powerful and more popular.  The truth is that the modern world, especially our Millennial population, seeks self-esteem through the social media to find self-confidence.  Our young people are very much affected by what others think and perceive of them.

So today, people seek positions of influence and leadership, whether in the political, corporate and even religious world, in order to get attention.  People want to be known by others, be famous and of course, most importantly, be popular.  Admittedly, some of these people can even be doing good for humanity and not just enriching themselves materially.  They can be involved in Church, community and social service.  But we must also ask whether we are doing it and holding such positions, whether voluntary or paid, to satisfy our need and ego or whether it is really for the humble service of our people, especially the poor and the vulnerable.  Indeed, like the disciples, many of us seek leadership and positions of influence for the wrong reasons.  This even happens in priestly and religious life.  Some seek ordination so that they can receive the attention they seek.  Some seek offices of leadership for recognition.

But Jesus made it clear that greatness is not measured by what we are, what positions we hold in life, whether we are rich or talented, but who we are.  “So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them.  Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”  What is most important is not whether we are a person of high political, religious or corporate standing but who we are before God.  We are His children above everything else.  Is it greater to be a child of a king, or president, or to be a child of our Heavenly Father, and the brother and sister of Christ, the King of kings? In the eyes of God, what counts is that we are all His children, irrespective of what we are.

Indeed, we have the great example of Moses in the first reading.  He was a great leader chosen by God to lead His people out of Egypt and to prepare them to enter the Promised Land.  He was a reluctant leader.  He did not aspire for leadership but he was called.  In fact, when the Lord chose Him, he felt unworthy to lead the people.  He said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11)  “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Ex 4:10)  He said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” (Ex 4:13)  God had His plans for Moses and he simply obeyed because that was the lot chosen for him.

The humility and contentment of Moses for whatever the portion the Lord has allotted for him is best seen in his acceptance of God’s decision that he would not lead the people across into the Promised Land.  He could only see it from afar.  This is true selfless leadership.  It was not about himself but the people under his care.  If God thought otherwise, he was happy to follow God’s decision.  He did not feel angry that he spent forty years forming the people and God did not give him the joy and reward of seeing the people possessing the land promised to his forefathers.  He was happy that Joshua would be the one who would complete the mission he had begun.  It was not about his success that matters but God’s!

Joshua, like Moses, too was forced into leadership.  Given the choice, he would have also declined the office, having seen how Moses had to deal with a people who was rebellious, demanding, unfaithful, disobedient and complaining.  Over and above managing the people, he would have to contend with external enemies from the various tribes surrounding them.  To lead them to Canaan where the people were much taller, stronger and better equipped than them, was to court death and perhaps annihilation.  Once again, just as God assured Moses that He Himself would lead the people to the Promised Land, God instructed Moses to assure Joshua and the people that they would possess the Promised Land not by their own strength but by His. “The Lord will hand them over to you, and you will deal with them in exact accordance with the commandments I have enjoined on you.  Be strong, stand firm, have no fear of them, no terror, for the Lord your God is going with you; he will not fail you or desert you.”  And to Joshua, Moses encouraged him likewise, “Be strong, stand firm; you are going with this people into the land the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them; you are to give it into their possession.  The Lord himself will lead you; he will be with you; he will not fail you or desert you.  Have no fear, do not be disheartened by anything.”

Therefore, what is needed is to have a childlike trust in God’s plan for us.  Happiness in life is to accept the lot God has given to us.  As St Paul wrote about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”  (1 Cor 12:4-6, 11)  Whatever we have, whatever position the Lord assigns us, wherever we are in, is planned by the Lord.  Our task is to accept graciously what He has given to us because that is where we fit into His plan of salvation.  If only we will dance with the Lord according to the portion He has allotted to us, we can find peace, happiness and integration.

When God assigns, no one can prevent His plan from unfolding.  That was the case of Israel.  This is the faith that the psalmist invites us to cultivate.  “I proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, tell the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are Equity. Think back on the days of old, think over the years, down the ages. Ask of your father, let him teach you; of your elders, let them enlighten you.  When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided the sons of men, he fixed their bounds according to the number of the sons of God; but the Lord’s portion was his people, Jacob his share of inheritance.”  Regardless, our confidence and joy is not which portion of the earth the Lord gives to us but that we are the Lord’s portion!  This is what the psalm declares.

Hence, if we want to enter the Kingdom of God and be numbered among the greatest, we will have to make ourselves childlike and trust in God’s plan for us.  It is not for us to choose what we like to do but what God wants of us.  We must seek to do everything for His greater glory and honour and for humble service, bearing in mind what the Lord said to His disciples, that “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Mt 20:25-28)

More than just accepting our lot in life, we must also be obedient children, and cooperate with Him to fulfil our role in life.  We must not behave like the Israelites who were constantly disobedient to God’s commandments and thus were deprived of entering the Promised Land.  Only the new generation of the sons of Israel could enter.  We, too, as children of God, with Jesus as our brother, must walk the way of truth and love as shown by our Lord.  If we are called to be leaders, we must lead the way and show others how to be a child of God before anything else. In this way, we will not lose our goal in life, which is to help every person to become a child of God as well.  As the Lord tells us in the parable of the lost sheep, “it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
  • Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
  • Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
  • It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.

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