25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sunday, September 19, 2021

Father Jim Valk's picture

Father Jim Valk

September 13, 2021

A wife was married to a man who was a full sized egotist. Every action was a sign of his egotism, always better than someone else. He was the greatest, at least in his own eyes. No matter what the wife would do, or would try to fix, he was # one. One day, at the circus, he decided to tell his wife that he was going to weigh himself. What a “diagnosis” he got! The machine said he was charming, intelligent, sexy, a magnetic personality. “Well,” said the egotist, “what do you think of that? It sees me as I am”. Said the wife “Don’t worry, my dear, the machine also got your weight wrong too”!

Who is the greatest one in your life? What makes us great? A writer once said that the one who is great knows how to make others feel great. Perhaps it is one who loves you, someone who appreciates you, a person who sees you, as you are, and still loves you, who sings God’s song to you when we ourselves have forgotten the words. What makes us great in the eyes of God?

Jesus is giving a lesson to the apostles about who is #One. They wanted the best spot, to be noticed, to be important. But Jesus turns everything upside down - the first will be last, the last will be first. One who serves is the greatest. Jesus came, not to be served but to serve. How many examples do we get in his life, his teaching! I love the story of the 2 little girls rushing home to see Dad. The older girl jumped into Dad’s lap, smiled at the little sister and said “I have all there is of Dad”. Dad picked up the little one and said “Oh yes, but I have all there is of her”.

A Japanese theologian was asked (at a conference) what event in the gospel touched him the most. His answer, “Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.” In his culture, this action meant the most to him - serve one another. Jesus took the risk to wash feet - and invited the apostles - and us - to follow his example. Be number one! Jesus recognizes us in the service of one another. Tony Bennett, the singer, sang: “This is all I ask. Children take me to the strange enchanted land where grownups seldom understand – simplicity”. Let us live simply so that others may simply live.

Three attitudes we might examine: The first is HOSPITALITY. It demands an openness to the presence of God in our daily lives. Hospitality is an earmark of service. Is there room in our hearts, our homes, our society for all people? God calls us to make LOVE real. Love is just a word until someone puts meaning to it. Is our love real? Are we willing to let God rule our life, give it meaning? In one of my villages a collection was being taken up for a very poor family. Everyone was to bring something to share. Maria was so poor that she only had a smile to give. Came the day. All put something in the basket. When it came to Maria - all stopped to watch. What did she offer? She took the basket and stepped into it. All knew this was the best gift of all.

Was she the greatest? Will I get into God’s basket?

The second attitude is one of GENEROSITY.  Thomas Merton, the Trappist Monk said that no one reaches eternity alone. We too often hang on to things, ideas, our attitudes. We pile up stuff and then generosity walks away. Greatest? No way! JJ Rousseau said that we only take to heaven what we gave away on earth! Are we the greatest, the most generous? Where I lived among the campesinos (Indians) there was a saying that was common - “mi casa es tu hogar”- my house is your home. In the comics, little rascal is acting up. The teacher says “I won’t meet you in heaven if you act up”. “Well,” said Rascal “What have you done wrong”? We meet each other - heaven is not up but in - our service, our love. We are worth what we give away. JF Kennedy said that it takes so little to make someone happy that it would be unthinkable not to do so. Are we the greatest? Who is on first? Am I in the game?

The third attitude is JOYFUL. Love one another as I love you. A little kid came home from school with a big smile on his face. “What is up?” his mother asked. “Today I learned how to write love”. “Yes,” she said, “How do you?” His answer: “MOM. Can we take the risk to love another; to let someone love us, to make a difference?” Jesus had a passion for life! Are we ‘passionate” in our way of giving, our way of loving, of sharing? It takes a risk to listen to the voice of the Lord. Margaret was a lady who was intellectually handicapped. I asked her “Who was the greatest person for her?” She threw her arms around me and said with a big smile, “You are, take me home”. She wasn’t on first base; she was hitting a home run for all of them came up, mobbed me for a hug. Greatest, YES, they are. For whom this week will we be the greatest? Will we hear Jesus say - Welcome - you are the greatest. You are on first.