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The ancient philosophers believed that God was only interested in very big and important matters. God had more important matters to worry about than fuss over humans. God had to fix the stars and balance the cosmos making sure heavenly bodies do not destroy each other, an important task indeed. That is why they called God, “the God of the universe.” Then some of the great ancient leaders believed that the most important concern for God was the balance of the powers, international trade, and the destinies of important people, like world leaders. That is why they called Him “the God of the nations.” They thought God could not be interested in us. It is true that God is only interested in the most important matters, and then one day Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He saw a woman who was hunched over for eighteen years. Think about that. For eighteen years she has not held a baby, for eighteen years she has not held a job or made a significant impact on society, for eighteen years she has not had a good night sleep. After eighteen years of suffering, a synagogue leader tells her to come back on another day to be cured but not the Sabbath. Interesting.
Let’s say this same synagogue leader was walking up to get one of the scrolls for the service, and slips on a banana peel, twists his leg, and breaks it. “Oh, my leg hurts,” he says. Then Jesus starts to walk toward him as the leader who is writhing in pain. Do you think the synagogue leader is going to stop Jesus from healing him? Of course not. I am sure there is a loophole to be found somewhere in the law. “It’s okay, everyone. It’s okay. God can do whatever he wishes.” So when Jesus sees this woman who is not regarded as very important, He calls her a daughter of Abraham. Jesus made her more important than the queen of Egypt. She is certainly more important than a synagogue leader. And that is the point that Jesus makes throughout the Gospel. It is not about running around serving people, it is about recognizing and acknowledging the importance of the people we serve.
When I was studying to be a priest in Rome, the Vatican called and asked if a few of us seminarians could serve at a papal Mass at the Vatican. We were really happy to do it. When we got there, we stood together and the Master of Ceremonies noticed that I was the tallest in the group and asked if I would carry the processional cross at the beginning of Mass. “No problem,” Here is the problem. This is the Basilica of St. Peter and it is big. The processional cross is two-stories tall, and I can tell you that it wasn’t made of Styrofoam. The task was to walk the cross from the back of the church to the front. That would be about a quarter of a mile. I thought I would pick up the pace so I could make it to the end, but the Master of Ceremonies jumped ahead of me and I had to slow down. Somehow I made it. My next task was to bring up the offertory gifts to the Holy Father I climbed up the stairs where John Paul II was seated. I am not sure if it was the music, the full church, the flashbulbs, but I felt honored at that moment to be serving the Vicar of Christ. It was the first time in my life that I was so close to an important and famous person. The adrenaline was fizzing through my veins. I was one of the most memorable moments in my life.
At the end of the Mass, I concluded that I now have an approach to serving people in my ministry. It was at that moment that I truly learned how to serve others. Everyone, I will ever serve in my life, I will serve as if they were as important as the Pope. Because they are.
Jesus once said, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink, hungry and you gave me food, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you visited me.” When did we see Jesus, the Son of God, hungry or naked or in prison? When the least one is in need. And that is Jesus’ point. It is not just about running around serving people who are in need. It is recognizing and acknowledging the person’s importance.Back to All Homilies