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Once Jesus said, “Give a cup of cold water to a little one and you will have your reward.” That is a hard saying. How do you equate a cup of water to a divine reward? I never really understood what the Lord was implying until one day. I was sitting at the desk in my office when the mail came. I got a thank-you card from the father of the bride. Not long ago I presided at his daughter’s wedding. I opened up the card and a check fell into my lap. When I looked at the amount on the check, I started to laugh. I have never seen so many zeroes on a check. It was a lot of money. I thought to myself, “I know I did a good job. I was good, but I wasn’t that good.” I called the father and thanked him for his generosity that exceeded every expectation. This is what he told me. “My daughter was worth it.” I began to realize that my “great job” had nothing to do with it. My service didn’t even play a part. The value on the check wasn’t about my service. The value was about the one I was serving.
Now I know how a cup of water can be so valuable to God. It is not about the service, it is about the person we are serving. That is important to remember because often we do not see the value of the person we are serving. Remember the woman in the Gospel who was hunched over for eighteen years. She probably has not made a significant contribution to society for a long time due to her physical limitations, and her value was no longer recognized. The synagogue leader tells her to come back another day to be cured but not on the Sabbath. Apparently, he did not recognize the woman’s importance to God. Jesus cured her anyway. And he did it on the Sabbath. He tells us why. This is a daughter of Abraham. Abraham is bigger than King David, more important than Moses. Abraham is the father of faith. And this woman is the daughter. We sometimes do not always recognize a person’s worth but God does.
There are twelve to thirteen parking spots in front of St. Clement Shrine. Just beyond that is a tow-away zone. Parking is reserved for the residents. If you do not have a parking permit, you will be towed. After Mass, I greet the people and one may say to me, “Thank you, Father, that was nice.” And then another, “Thank you, Father, that was nice.” And then I hear, “Thank you, Father, my car was towed.” I tell them, “Get in the van, and I will take you to the tow lot.” They always respond, “But Father, we do not want to put you out.” I tell them, “Don’t worry about it, this is how I met all the new parishioners, by taking them to the tow lot.”
This time it was a family from Virginia who was on vacation. Let me tell you about the Somerville tow lot. It is at the end of a dead-end road and there are no streetlights. If you are making a movie and want a great place for a murder scene, this is it. I arrived at the tow lot and they jumped out of the car and thanked me. I said, “Wait, hold it. I am not leaving here until I see you drive out of that lot alive. You will then get behind my van and follow me. I will take you to the highway because GPS’s do not work around here.” When we arrived at the highway, they sounded their horn and I saw a pair of hands waving to me. I know I will never see them again. I think to myself, “What am I doing here at a quarter to ten at night? I am tired after a long day. Why do I do this?” I am not going to get a Christmas bonus or get a donation for the capital campaign. This is why I help them. Because they are important people. There will be a day when I will be before God face-to-face and God will not say to me, “I know you, you are the priest that said Mass all the time in Boston.” Rather, God is going to say, “I know you, you helped my friends from Virginia who cannot read parking signs.”
So remember, it is not about you or how well you serve, it is about the person you are serving. You may not recognize a person’s importance or worth. But God does. And God rewards.Back to All Homilies