Things are not always as they appear to be; even less are they as we think they ought to be. The disciples certainly discovered that truth during their interaction with Jesus in today’s scripture passage. Jesus’ followers are vying for the position of “most important.” If we enter into the scene, we can imagine each disciple listing off his credentials, his years with Jesus, perhaps even his family lineage. In the midst of the conversation, however, Jesus chimes in reminding them (for everything about Jesus has been saying it all along) that it is not the powerful, or the rich, or the intelligent who are the greatest. In fact, he chooses to align himself with those who represent the least social status in his time. “If you warmly receive a child,” he states, “you receive me and you receive God.” I’m sure it was not the resolution the disciples were expecting.

It is easy to sympathize with these followers. We too can get caught up in self-serving arguments— at work and at home—aimed at reassuring ourselves, and others, of our importance and worth. But when we do that, we run the risk of missing the truth that God is trying to reveal to us; namely, that he dwells with those the world has cast aside.

Today, Jesus cries out to us to warmly receive those in our society who lack status: the ex-con, the high school dropout, the immigrant, the poor. Receive these people into your life, he promises, and you receive me. Then, to push his point further, Jesus instructs John to embrace those who cast out demons, whether they are of his company or not.

Likewise, he calls us today to embrace those who work for peace, whether they are from the U.S. or Russia or anywhere else in the world. He calls us to embrace those who heal our broken world, no matter their religion. In short, he calls us to embrace all those who do their part in realizing the Kingdom of God here and now.

—Judy Henry McMullan earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She currently works as a Pastoral Care Minister at Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham, MA