Sunday, September 24, 2006

25th Sunday - Homily

Six years ago, I spent a few weeks in Calcutta, India, working with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters). I worked at the home for the dying called Kaligat; Kaligat was a very tough place to work. The men and women who lived there were in their forties and fifties, and they each weighed about forty or fifty pounds. Their families had left them in train stations…to die. The sisters went every morning to the train stations to pick these people up, and care for them at Kaligat. The sisters don’t have degrees in medicine or nursing; they only have degrees in love. They served these men and women with great love and care in their final days.

I have a friend from Baltimore whose name is Amber. When Amber was nine years old, she was driving through the streets of Baltimore with her Mom and asked her why so many people were on the streets. Her Mom told her that that’s where they lived. Amber felt so badly for them that she started making sandwiches for the homeless at nine years old. Nine years old! She has done it every weekend since then; even while she’s at college, many of her friends serve hundreds of homeless men and women in Baltimore every weekend.

Probably the greatest example of love in marriage that I’ve ever seen was my Uncle Mike. His wife, my Aunt Mary, suffered a stroke in 1994; she was bedridden the last five years of her life. Every morning and evening, there was my Uncle Mike, catering to her every need. He truly lived out what he promised on their wedding day: he loved and honored her, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.

Jesus says in today’s Gospel that the greatest people among us are the ones who serve the rest. These are examples are some of the greatest people on Earth! In general, those who serve are parents and good friends. Also, many people spend their lives in service to others as priests, nuns, teachers, policemen, nurses, firemen, coaches, etc. These are all the greatest people among us! They get it that it’s all about service to others. They are first in the Kingdom of God because they are the last and the servants of all.

What Jesus says doesn’t make sense, though: to be first you must be last. It is so counter-cultural; our culture and society say that to be first, you have to be number one. You have to put yourself out there and make a name for yourself. You have to make the most money, have the most power, and achieve the most successes. Even the Apostles fell into this mindset; they were arguing about who was the greatest. Who knows what they were saying – maybe who had made the most converts or something. But, Jesus basically says to them, ‘you guys don’t get it. To be great in the Kingdom of God you must be the servant of all’.

This is big talk from Christ. He not talks the talk, he walks the walk. The whole reason he came into the world was to serve us. His mission finds its fulfillment on the Cross which is the greatest sign of service in the world. He gave his very life for us! Any time we serve others, we imitate Jesus. It doesn’t have to be something big like in Calcutta, it can be right here at home, serving a friend in need. We follow Jesus’ words to put others first and serve them, not ourselves. It means being selfless, not selfish. It means imitating Him who is the greatest of all, and the servant of all.

Christian service starts right here. It starts here with Christ…it starts here with the Eucharist. Someone asked Mother Teresa how she could serve the poorest people in the world every day. She said that it was because of the Eucharist. Without an hour in Adoration of the Eucharist and receiving Christ every morning at Mass, she said she would not have made it more than a week. She knew it was the Grace of this sacrament that made her service possible. For her and for any of us, it is Christ who gives us the strength and courage to go out to others in need. It is really Him serving others through us. With His help, we bring the Father’s love to those we meet…the great love He has for each and every one of us. May you know His love this day.

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