The least is greater
“Jesus said to his disciples: Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11: 11)
Is this a riddle?
When Jesus says that no one greater than John has ever been born he is saying that John’s righteousness and personal holiness exceeds all the prophets of past times.
John’s passion for the Word of God gave him more energy than his diet of locusts and wild honey. It is clear that by sending his disciples to check Jesus out that he may have been wondering if Jesus, on whom he saw the Spirit descend at baptism, was as true as he was to covenant observance.
John’s fierceness and austerity is a striking “attention getter” for the kingdom. But so is Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes, touching the unclean and relating to foreigners. JB baptises, pouring water for repentance. JC baptises, pouring spirit for transformation. Pouring water represents what we do for the kingdom. Pouring Spirit represents what God does for us: giving the kingdom.
The least in the kingdom represents what God does for us. The greatest, JB, represents what we do for God. Obviously, what is “greater” is what God does. These two greatnessess complement each other.
Contemplative prayer which is so appropriate to Advent helps us appreciate God’s presence in the least likely places in our lives, like silence. By setting our strenuous activity for the kingdom to rest for times of trustful attentive silence we begin to experience a satisfaction that is greater than comes from our prophetic successes for God.
This deeper trustful satisfaction permits us to express covenant fidelity in new and daring ways. By entering relationships with others who we may have regarded with suspicion or contempt as a way of sharing God’s universal love with the stranger.
When the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised there is something greater at work than heroic human righteousness. God’s Spirit is restoring humanity according to Divine righteousness, or according to Divine mercy.
Experiencing this Divine mercy or righteousness is what accelerates vocational maturity. When we do things right for God and the kingdom our self-esteem goes up and that is great. But when we experience what God does for us our soul-esteem goes up and that is greater. Soul esteem will take you farther into the kingdom and into covenant fidelity because soul esteem generates gratitude.
By Mark Blom, OMI – Vocation Director, OMI Lacombe Canada
To contact Fr. Mark for advice about discernment and vocation direction. He can meet with you by phone to conduct a short vocation assessment to help you find your way. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for an appointment.