In reflecting on today's readings, I find myself thinking about the concept of greatness. There is the might of Pharaoh, the impact of the strength of God defending the oppressed Psalmist and the deep question that seems to flow constantly below the surface for the community of disciples around Jesus: who is greatest amongst them.
Jesus, when asked who is "greater" takes a little child and puts it in the midst of the assembled. Be like this one, for anyone who does not become like a little child cannot enter the kingdom. Without over-idealizing the virtues of childhood, I see it as an invitation from Jesus to let go of the very idea that somehow one person can possess greatness over another person. Greatness is something that rises up out of humility, out of mutual and ongoing submission to each other. In this context, Jesus challenges the community of disciples to be one whose primary focus is on reconciliation, to God in the world and to each other.
That contrasts with the behavior of Pharaoh and the Egyptians in our chapters from Exodus. In a few short lines, the ruler of Egypt first forces corvee labor on the Israelites, then encourages active repression of the people...and finally attempts genocide. One of the greatest kings of the ancient world shows us just how corrupt power over others can become.
The way through this morass? Jesus calls on us to be a community whose primary focus is on reconciliation, deep reconciliation. How often are we called to forgive, more times than we can number. How do we reconcile with each other? We go forward with baby steps: person to person-working out the kinks in broken or twisted relationships step-by-step. When person to person fails, do it in small groups. When small groups fail. take it to the whole church, and always soak that process in humility and prayer. Greatness is not found in exercising power over someone or something...it is found in using our power (whatever degree we may have in a given situation) to bring life, peace, hope and grace to those relationships.