In this week’s gospel readings we meet John the Baptist, known far and wide as a great prophet. Yet, John rejected the accolades of greatness while pointing to the one who was greater than he; one whose sandals he was unworthy to untie. (John 1)
What John did was something so basic; acknowledge the greatness in another. Acknowledge that others are greater than you. Acknowledge that you are not the greatest! This is not only basic human wisdom, but a basic truth of life.
We use the term “greatest” to describe someone who is truly at the top of their field. Yet, greatness is as fleeting as the present moment. World champions and records are replaced with new champions and new records. Past heroes are overshadowed by new stars. Also, being talented or great at what one does does not guarantee greatness in all aspects of life.
We begin 2018 still reeling from 2017. We fear the damage, already experienced and potentially to come, of a person who has been handed enormous power and responsibility while believing that they, and they alone, are the greatest.
Trump’s delusional rants about his greatness expose him as the fool he is. His claims are easily debunked and become fodder for political satire. We laugh at his audacity, but his overblown ego is dangerous.
Do you remember learning that pride is the greatest sin? Pride really does lead to numerous other evils. When “I am the greatest”, then…
- All others are lesser than me. Their lives have little or no value.
- The role of others is to serve me and my interests.
- I am accountable to no one.
- I do not need to seek the wisdom of others, for I know all.
- Flexibility or change of thought is a sign of weakness.
- All who challenge my greatness are my enemies.
- I am the sole possessor of truth. All others are liars.
The old adage states that pride comes before the fall. Mary sings the praises of a just and loving God in her Magnificat. She sings of a God who cares for and rewards the poor and humble. My prayer for 2018 is that we will be blessed with the necessary wisdom, energy and hope to make her words come true.
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.