We live in an age where status and material wealth makes you a "somebody." Even I have to admit that I would not have gotten to where I am today without having received some stamp of recognition. We all wish to be a "somebody," to feel a sense of importance. We want to be "great!"
I am still awestruck by St. Paul's insight in his letter to the Philippians:
Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.
He emptied himself. The more I reflect on this quote from Philippians, I am drawn to the realization that the Christian life is about emptying oneself before God. Yet, it is not an emptying that negates who one is before God. It is an emptying that leads us to fully become who we are truly meant to be. It is in emptying ourselves that we truly become great in the manner of Christ, because true greatness does not seek the pomp and circumstance that sometimes comes with worldly recognition, but true greatness accrues to the person who does simple acts with love. It is the mother who works two jobs and still finds time to read her kids a bedtime story. It is the brother in our house who always asks, "How are you?"
We are often under the illusion that greatness must come in the form of worldly recognition that in the end prevents us from encountering who we really are. Greatness isn't anything we make for or of ourselves. In the end I cannot take my degrees to the grave with me. I cannot take my status. I cannot take my life possessions or my prestige. Ultimately, greatness is what we achieve when we simply let love consume us. This is because every act of love participates in the great eternal love of Christ, no matter how small and simple. Just as Christ was stripped of his seamless garment, which was cast for lots before he hung on the cross in the ultimate act of love, so too we must be stripped of our garments to be exposed before God, so we may die to self and receive his greatness.
Should we not seek to change ourselves to become better? Certainly, we should. Seek not so much that you might gain worldly recognition. Rather, seek the greatness of Christ.
I will leave a little prayer for your reflection:
Lord Jesus, who will remember anything great that we have done in our lives? It is not in great accomplishments that we are great or worthy of remembrance. It is the simple act of love that is truly great and in which we are truly remembered, because in every simple act of love we are joined to your great and eternal love that continues to be remembered forever. Strip us then of every desire for worldly greatness. Strip us, so that we may be love, for love alone is the greatest.