“Greatest” is the word that stands out in today’s gospel, when Jesus teaches that “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven." The Greek word for “greatest” (megas) is where we get our word “mega,” which we hear all the time in phrases like “mega-church” or the “mega-million lottery.” The word itself means great or the greatest in reference to something’s status or stature. But it also means superabundance, especially about personally experiencing grace, such as the first time the word appears in the New Testament, when the wise men saw the star that they had been following settle over the Bethlehem stable and “they rejoiced exceedingly with great [megas] joy” (Matthew 2:10). This word can also mean very loud, such as when Jesus cried with a loud (megas) voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46).
This word also occurs when Jesus calmed the storm and “there was a great [megas] calm” (Mark 4:39), giving this kind of calm a very unique experience, like one that had never been experienced before, or might not ever be experienced again: Calmness in the greatest sense of peace. This word is even used in a quick contrast when the angel of the Lord appears to Bethlehem shepherds “and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great [megas] fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great [megas] joy which will come to all the people’” (Luke 2:9—10). Great fear is what occurs at the beginning of divine revelation; great joy is what follows.
This word is repeated over two hundred more times and used in various ways throughout the New Testament. But this word is meant to be understood in the sense of ultimate power, such as the last two times it is used in Revelation, when describing what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as a vision of “the glory of God… his love… the mysterious presence of the Triune God” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 13 May 2007), that is, a description of the Heavenly Jerusalem: “And in the spirit he carried me away to a great [megas], high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God… It has a great [megas], high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels” (see Revelatoin 21:10, 12).
Jesus’s word in today’s gospel unites obedience to and evangelism of God’s law with being the greatest—the most unrepeatable, the most glorious, the most perfect—one in heaven. But our greatness isn’t about being better than anyone else, but being united to Christ, who unites us to his glory and everyone else who obey, teach, unite themselves to him, too. That is the greatness awaiting us. Ultimate, complete, perfect union. That’s heaven.