The Last Shall be First
Have you ever been sitting next to your friend and suddently you find yourself unexplanibly annoyed by them? Maybe they start is tapping on the desk or table. Or they start crunching potato chips obnoxiously close to your ear. Maybe they’re singing a song and it’s just grating on your last nerve. I’ve noticed that when someone points those annoying habbits out they become 10 times worse! Once I start thinking about the tapping, or the crunching, or the singing it becomes intolorable! It can feel like they’re trying to be annoying on purpose!
I travel the country full time with my wife and our six young children. We get on each other’s nerves a lot. It happens all the time and it makes me wonder : can we help it when we get annoyed? Does God want us to be annoyed at each other? I don’t desire to be annoyed, but it can happen.
I think that God often uses those times to challenge us to grow in virtue. It is during those times that I realize that God permits suffering to bring out an even greater good. That’s what the readings today are talking about. They portray this dichotomy between the wicked and the just. The wicked “try his patience” because “he is annoying to us.”
I know when I hear that reading, I don’t identify with the wicked – but I’m sure that I am that man at times. Nobody wants to be the annoying friend, but we have all been there. God can use us to bring about His greater glory.
A good friend of mine one time used this analogy : the evil one like to take a magnifiying glass and point out all the cracks in life. The evil ones tries to get us to focus and only see the cracks and not the bigger picture. He tries to get us to lose our focus.
Often times it is hardest to get along with those who are closest to us. Our family – our youth group – our co-workers or our fellow students. Those around us who are doing good can be annoying to us. Why is that? Why do we feel frustration when someone else is doing good?
I think it is because we feel an unredeemed need to compete with them. Americans are trained for competition. We compete in sports. We compete with classmates to be ranked in the class. We compete with others for attention. However, God’s love is not like that. God is not a competition. God’s love is superabundant – there is plenty to go around!
That’s what James talks about in the second reading – God’s desire is not for us to compete and fight, but rather to live in love and harmony. He states plainly : “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” God does not desire infighting, bickering, and pettiness. He desires unity “that all may be one as we are one” Jesus states during the last supper. (Jn 17:21)
God’s love is more than enough for us and it upholds our life. This message carries through to the Gospel where Jesus calls out His closest followers. They were arguing about who was the greatest. He tells them you must be like a little child and that the first shall be last.
Far too often, I seek to be first. I want to be recognized for what I do and feel appreciated. This is not the Christian ideal. St. Paul exhorts us to “love one another and anticipate one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10).
God’s ways are certainly not our ways. God uses annoyances as opportunities to grow in virtue. God turns suffering into Sacraments. This week let us grow in holiness by not losing our focus on humility and service modeled by Jesus Christ.