Pastoral Message – September 19, 2021
Many of us want to be rich and famous. Why is this? There is something very deep in our human nature that strives for winning, succeeding and conquering. We want to be first, and to be the best. We want all this because the world tells us that greatness is measured by how many people serve us and how many people we control. Christ teaches us a different measure and criterion when he says, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
In the Gospel story for this Sunday, Jesus teaches his disciples about service. Jesus knows that his chosen ones are speculating and discussing among themselves as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus then calls forward a child and teaches the Twelve (and all of us) that to receive a child in his name is to receive both him and the One who sent him.
Understandably, many of us today fail to understand the full significance of this action. In first-century Palestine, children were without status or power. They did not enjoy possessions or legal rights. In this action of calling an individual child, Jesus is teaching his disciples and us that when we serve the least ones among us, we serve Jesus himself. For Jesus, greatness is service. Since Jesus identifies himself with our neighbors, to serve any of them is to serve Christ. To serve is to be great.
There is a significant difference between doing our best and being the best. Being ‘the best’ students, teachers, nurses, spouses, parents, children and the like would be impossible on a practical and concrete level. Likewise , Whenever we speculate and discuss “who is the greatest?” It leads us to conflict, pride and sins.
Many of us feel a strong tendency within our hearts to put ourselves first. Christ tells us to do otherwise. He tells us to put others first. He shows us a small child as an example. Put them first, serve them and you are serving Him. Today, Jesus invites us to imitate him. “I come to serve, not to be served.” Jesus calls us to be humble and gentle in our service. He calls us to endure and to bring peace to a conflicted and greedy world. As St. James tells us in the second reading, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” Jesus invites us to be servants of all, sowing peace. Acts of loving service are acts of greatness and are acts of peace!
As for our “homework” this week, let us take quiet time and reflect on two considerations. First, we should call to mind one, two or more of the greatest people whom we know and admire. We can especially think of the connection between why we consider them great people and their spirit of service. In the second place, we can resolve that this week we will be more attentive to serve our family, friends and close coworkers so that they will be able to experience not so much our greatest, but the greatness of God. If we get in the habit of taking these considerations to heart every day, we will be better and better at serving. This is important since, again, for Jesus to be great is to serve and to serve is to be great!
Blessings and peace!