In today’s Gospel reading, we heard that Jesus and his disciples were on the way to Galilee and Jesus spoke to them about His suffering, agony, the death on the cross, and His resurrection.  But the disciples did not pay much attention, and they did not understand these sayings of Jesus. The disciples were thinking about their future lives and arguing with one another about: “Who is the greatest?”  Sometimes, we too think: “I am the greatest; I am always correct and others are not correct.”  This type of thinking can break relationships within the family and between friends.

Jesus is saying that true greatness is in being of service to others.  Many of us have found difficulties in accepting this idea. Sometimes we think about who is the greatest in the family!  When parents are building up their children and treating them with the deepest respect and love, then parents are really great.  When children listen, obey their parents, and do their duties faithfully, then they are the greatest.  We are all called to serve, in whatever position or role we may have.  St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta really understood these words of Jesus, and she lived and practiced them with passion and compassion.

During the celebration of receiving The Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the Secretary General of the United Nations introduced Mother Theresa to an elite gathering of the representatives of all members of the U.N.  He needed only one sentence for his introduction: “I present to you the most powerful woman in the world!”  This was a clear recognition of the power of humble and sacrificial Christian service!  Mother Theresa was living proof of Jesus’ words in today’s gospel that real greatness is in serving others.   That is why when she died – she was given the extraordinary honor of a state funeral by a Hindu country like India, where Christians are a small minority.  When we have reached her level of love, compassion, and humble service to the most needy people, then we are the greatest!

Let me share with you a meaningful story:  One day, a boy asked his father, “What does the word Great mean?” Then the boy said, “I have read many times that this person is great, and he did this and that.  Please explain to me, “Who are these great people and how did they become great?”

His father thought of an idea to teach his son about being Great!  The father asked his son to bring two plants and told him to plant one of them inside the house and the other outside the house.  The boy did as his father said.  Now, the father asked his son, “What do you think? Which one of these two plants will be bigger and safer?”   The boy replied, “Dad, the plant which is inside of our house will be safer and therefor it will grow big, whereas the plant outside the house is not safe at all; it will have to endure many seasons and no one will be there to take care of it.  It could be eaten by animals.”

His father smiled and said, “You will know this in time and in time I will give you an answer for your question.”  The boy left for higher studies and after four years, he came back to his home.  When he saw the plant, which he had planted there before he left for his studies, he said to his father, “See, I told you that nothing would happen to this plant and it would be safe and grow big.”  His father smiled and said, “You should go outside and see another plant.” When the boy went outside, he saw a big tree.  The boy could not believe his eyes.  He could not understand how the plant outside was able to grow much bigger than the plant inside the house.

The father explained to his son that the plant outside was able to grow this big because it faced every season and many challenges and difficulties. The plant inside the house did not get proper sunlight there for it did not become big.   Here is the answer to your question about being Great – To become a Great person, one fails many times, has to face many difficulties and struggles, and overcome those difficulties and struggles with willpower and determination.  Only after this, he or she is able to become Great.   One should always tell himself that even if he faces many difficulties and challenges, even if he gets discouraged, again and again, he will not stop until he reaches his destination!

Today’s gospel challenges us: As disciples of Christ, we are called not to seek our own power and prestige, but peace and unity.   As disciples of Christ, we are not motivated by jealousy and selfish ambition, but by serving the greater good.  As disciples of Christ, we do not give our attention to the wealthy and powerful, but to innocent children and the marginalized. As disciples of Christ, we have to face our own daily challenges and struggles and never give up, and we have to move on with faith and hope. Then we become greater persons and experience inner happiness!

There is a Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go for fishing.  If you want happiness for a year, have more wealth.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”  Real happiness can be found in helping others!   Let us follow the motto of Mother Teresa and her sisters: “The fruit of Silence is Prayer.  The fruit of Prayer is Faith.  The fruit of Faith is Love.  The fruit of Love is Service.  And the fruit of Service is Peace.”

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