I’m sure we notice immediately the contrast, where last Sunday, if you recall the Gospel, Jesus had taken a small child, embraced that child and told his disciples, “If you welcome a child like this in my name, you are welcoming me.” In a very gentle way, Jesus was trying to impress upon his disciples that it’s those who don’t really count because — they have to be aware, as we reminded ourselves last Sunday — in the culture in which Jesus lived in the Roman Empire’s set of values, children were non-persons.
They had no rights. So Jesus is saying the least, the very ones who are not recognized at all even as persons, that’s where I am. I am with those who are poor, oppressed, beaten down, those who almost are treated in society as if they are non-persons. I am with those people, and there you will find me. Jesus had done that because his disciples had been arguing about: In the Reign of God, in this kingdom he’s talking about, who is going to be the greatest among us?
They are arguing, trying to say one would be great and the other one greater, and so on. That’s when Jesus used the example of the little child. Now, in today’s Gospel, I think you sense a kind of frustration on the part of Jesus. His disciples just aren’t getting it. A couple of weeks ago, Peter had acknowledge that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Then, when Jesus said, “Yes, you have spoken well,” Jesus invited them to follow him, but told them about how he was going to Jerusalem to take up his cross, suffer, be tortured, be executed ignominiously.
He said, “Follow me.” Jesus kept on trying to impress upon the disciples that this Reign of God he was talking about, when it happens in its fullness, will be a time of full life for every person — peace, justice, love and the fullness of God’s reign — but you only enter into it when you are ready to deny your very self, take up your cross and follow me, because that is when Jesus pours forth love upon all of us and all of creation, upon all of humankind.