Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
A few days ago someone sent me a cute little story. Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was having problems studying his addition and subtraction. His teacher tried her best to get him to study his tables, but nothing seemed to work. His parents promised him tons of gifts, but even that didn’t work. So one day they decided to move him to a Catholic school. Now, the little boy’s parents weren’t very religious at all, but they thought to themselves: “Maybe the nuns can get through to him.”
Well, after his first day of school, the little boy’s parents were shocked to see their son go straight to his room and study. They couldn’t believe it. Now they were very happy with his change in attitude and resolve, but they became somewhat alarmed when right after dinner their son marched straight to his room to study. The little boy’s mom couldn’t take it anymore and so she asked her son, “What did the nuns tell you?” The little boy looked at his mom and responded, “Nothing” and went right back to studying. “Well then why are you studying so hard?” she asked. The little boy looked up and said, “I don’t want to get nailed to the plus sign like the man on the wall did.”
Sacrifice pays off. Hard work pays off. Humility pays off. Love pays off. How does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice man, practice!
If anyone wishes to be first…The Lord provides plenty of opportunities for us to be great, but it takes “practice man, practice.” We must practice (and master) humility: “My son, when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be…undisturbed in time of adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your ways; keep his fear and grow old therein” (Sirach 2:1-6).
But it doesn’t just take practice. It takes a great leader (teacher) as well. Christ is a great teacher. He is the greatest teacher of the greatest profession: holiness. He knows the right connections: salvation through humility. He knows how to get us a break: judge not and you shall not be judged. The Lord truly knows how to get us to Heaven, and it isn’t at all what we would “naturally” think; it isn’t a matter of just being “connected with ‘oneself’” or “in tune with ‘oneself’” or “in love with ‘oneself.’” It takes more than one person, hard work and perseverance: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be last of all and the servant of all.” This takes work, hard work, and it also means that someone must be ahead of you!
“You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. You who fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened. Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken? Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed? Compassionate and merciful is the Lord; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth” (Sirach 2:7-11).