25th Sunday Homily
Every Mass, We begin our prayers by making the sign of the cross. It is easy to make the sign of the cross. Our challenge is being the sign of the cross; making and being the sign of the cross! Accepting that challenge, let’s celebrate this Eucharist.
According to the biblical scholars, in the Bible stories there is special pattern or style which they call “the younger child motif.” If you make a clear study on the bible stories where there are two or more characters it is always the younger one who emerges as the hero, the good guy or the one who laughs last. For e.g. take the stories of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, David and his brothers, Adonijah and Solomon, Leah and Rachel, the prodigal son and his elder brother, Mary and Martha. In all these stories it is the younger sibling who ends up more at peace with God and people. The reason; it is the spirit and spirituality of God! “Then Jesus took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me’”
I can guarantee that most of you have gone to Wendy’s fast-food restaurants at least once. One man who had an enormous impact on his company was the founder and former CEO of Wendy’s fast-food restaurants, Dave Thomas. Dave Thomas’ life was a remarkable success story. Adopted as a child, he never finished high school. In his book, Well Done: the Common Guy’s Guide to Everyday Success, Dave said he got his MBA long before his G.E.D. He says he has a photograph of himself in his MBA graduation outfit–a snazzy knee-length work apron. He claims to be the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket. That wasn’t a gag. He calls it leading by example. At Wendy’s, he says, MBA doesn’t mean Master of Business Administration. It means Mop Bucket Attitude. It means a commitment to service. Dave Thomas, who died in 2002, had a commitment to service. [(Harper Collins, 1994), p. 159. That’s what Jesus wants from his disciples–a Mop Bucket Attitude. We exist to serve, not to be served. That’s the secret of happiness in any job–to see it as a calling, a vocation, an opportunity. Today’s readings invite us to become great in the sight of God by doing God’s will, as Jesus did, surrendering our lives in the service of others.
Wherever the pope goes, he will take a little baby from its mother’s arms to raise it above the crowd, he is repeating what was a significant gesture of Jesus. It is not just a demonstration of the kindly nature of a good man; it is a sure sign of the Kingdom and an indication of the kind of Messiah that Jesus was proclaiming himself to be. What makes the child special? the child is an explosion of joy and life, is full of spontaneity and confidence, is without deviousness and mental reservations, and has the freshness of the dawn or the fountain-head. The child is like Springtime, like the rising sun, the bearer of the future. The child sparkles and makes everyone else sparkle, even the one with the murkiest face. The Messiah is not to be a prince or a hero in worldly terms. Rather, A child is born to us (Is 9, 5.) His first appearance is in swaddling clothes. The Son of God wished to be born, to live and to die as a child, innocent and unsuspecting, poor and dependent, because the Father’s House is the Kingdom of children. Unless we become as little children, we cannot enter it. What a confusing Messiah Jesus is! He never ceases to astonish us. The child, the Messiah – and the Father, what a trinity!
Think about Jesus. If he wanted he could have selected a best century to be born in the world. He could have selected a better country, better family, and better race to be born. He could have selected a better way to bring salvation. In that case, it would have been all about Jesus himself; it would not have been all about human beings and our salvation. But Jesus did not think about himself; his security, happiness and comfort. Our happiness, comfort and security and salvation were his concern. In order to bring salvation and happiness to people he is willing to die and he is talking about that.
But what is the attitude of the apostles. It is all about me. I don’t care how you are going to die and what is going to happen to you; I just need my position, power, happiness and well-being. I don’t care what you have; I don’t care who you are; but I care what I am and what I have. I don’t care whether you are dying on the cross. I don’t care what happens to you in the future; but I care about who I want to become; my position.
We also keep the same kind of attitude some times. I must be the happiest, prettiest, wealthy person in the world. I need everything best. I don’t care who you are and what happens to you and what you have. I don’t care whether you have a place to live or not; but I am thinking about how I can get a lake house where I can spend few days year. Rather than worrying about myself, like Jesus, let us think about others and lead a life to bring meaning to other people life. That is true discipleship.
Jesus wants us to create a new culture, the culture of the humble “Unless you change and become like a child!” I MUST change. I MUST be humble. I MUST surrender to the King of glory so I can find life. Only then, in becoming a child, like God himself in Jesus our Immanuel, will I find greatness! In other words, Jesus wants to create ‘Topsy Turvy’ world” Do you know what that means? It means that everything is the opposite of what people think it should be. Everything is backward or upside down. “So you want first place, do you?” Jesus said. “Then you must take the last place. If you want to be the greatest, then you must be a servant to all.” Then Jesus called a small child over to him and put his arms around him. “If anyone welcomes a little child like this, he welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me.”
“Already you have devoted enough time” on your pleasures’ (1 Pt 4:3). Now devote the rest of your time on earth to seeking God’s pleasure. Through the cross, be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14). When you are crucified to your own desires, you are then empty enough to receive God’s desires. Then you are ready to receive God’s abundant life, joy, peace, love, and the gifts of the Spirit. Repent of following your desires. Seek the lasting pleasures of God rather than the momentary pleasures of this world.
Spiritual life or discipleship is all about imitating Jesus and learning from the wisdom of Jesus to gain eternal life. Children do not know everything. They have to learn a lot. They have to acquire the skills. Become like children means get on the stages of a spiritual formation. Get on the formation of dying to oneself. I invite you to look at a crucifix or a picture of Jesus on the cross for at least one minute a day for nine days. Then, God will give you the grace to speak of nothing but the cross (1 Cor 2:2) and boast of nothing but the cross (Gal 6:14). You will find joy (see Col 1:24) in carrying the crosses of being persecuted, giving forgiveness, doing penance, making sacrifices, fasting, serving, loving enemies, choosing poverty, making commitments, and loving your vocation. Fix your eyes on Christ crucified. Not only make the sign of the cross but be the sign of the cross!