17th Sunday after Pentecost
The Rev. Fr. Leonard Oakes
Last Night’s September to remember Annual Fundraising dinner dance must have been the most entertaining night we’ve ever had. Everyone had fun and everyone went home satisfied.
The highlight of the night was the dance competition where a pair of best dancers will be awarded the first and only prize in the swing and cha-cha dance competition.
A couple of pairs took the stage and displayed their very best before the judges and the crowd. One of the pairs partner jumped into the lap of her partner and gestured a flying position which raised the crowd to their feet and shouted, “Bravo, Bravo!!”
Then out of nowhere, came a very familiar pair, Fr. Jureck Fernandez and Lito Parangan who displayed their manly position trying their best to display their winning performance amidst their stiff muscles. They even displayed a snobbish facial expression just to convince the judges.
After the dance, the three pairs were anxious about the result, all the more with Fr. Jureck and Lito (who were holding hands with a fervent prayer that they will win). After so much deep breathing exercises, the judges awarded the first prize to the pair whose partner jumped and gestured the flying position.
I overheard Fr. Jureck and Lito arguing with the judges still trying to convince them that they were the best. I approached them and asked, “What are you arguing about?” Unwilling to disclose their concealed feelings, I told them, “Had one of you jumped into the other’s lap and gestured your snobbish position, you would have won the prize.” They sadly said, “We’ll do next time.”
I was glad I didn’t get tempted with Deacon Jon Owens’s invitation to dance. We could have gotten all the judges votes. Please don’t wonder what dance position we could have displayed.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples were arguing about who is the greatest among them. Each must have boast to the other about his accomplishments.
There is an amusing fable about a smart dog who talked out his two friend-ducks to fly him from the north to the south. The dog prepared for the trip by tying the ends of a long, stout cord at its middle and the trio took off. The journey was going well until someone on the ground looked up and, marveling at the ingenuity, he shouted, “Hey, that’s terrific! Whose idea is it?” In his eagerness to grab the credit, the proud dog opened his mouth to say, “Mine!” letting go of his bite…Down he went to his demise.
In the Gospel, here was Jesus, their leader, on His last journey towards Jerusalem and death and all the disciples could discuss was who was going to be the greatest among them in heaven. After hearing this, Jesus must have wanted to pull out whatever hair He had left or kicking a stone out of frustration. Three years of teaching and loving them, and all they got out of it was this-nosy pride!
Time and time again, Jesus have told His disciples that the kingdom of heaven was not about seeking honor and glory and power for oneself, but it was about serving others. If they were prepared to serve others, then and only then could they have a top place in His kingdom. It is most likely the people in the top spots in heaven, if ever there is, will not be sitting in soft chairs sipping the drink of their choice. Most likely, they will be on their knees with a wash basin of water in one hand and a towel in the other, washing the feet of those whom they have been ignoring.
A lot of times we tend to ignore the very least in our society. Many of us tend to evaluate people in terms of the job they do. We tend to look up to doctors, lawyers, priests, bankers, etc. while we don’t exactly admire janitors, garbage collectors or used car dealers. That is both unfair and silly, isn’t it? All people are worthy of our respect, regardless of what they do for a living. After all, the human being is far more important than the job they have.
The part that fascinated me the most in this Gospel is the love of Christ to children. “Then he 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.” Jesus reminded his disciples about the importance of children. They are the first group of people, other than the seniors, who are most ignored in our society.
There’s a story about this whole family who went out to dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone got a menu, even the youngest, July, who was 7 years old. Since the conversation was an ‘adult’ one, July sat there ignored. When the waiter took their orders, he came to July last.
“Have you decided what to order young lady?” he asked. July answered, “I will have a Hawaiian Burger, a french fries and halo-halo”.
“No”, said her mother. “She will have a small salad with low fat dressing and chicken nuggets,”. “And milk to drink”, chimed in her father. The waiter looked at July and asked, “Would you like catsup or mustard on your burger”? She said, “Catsup with some fried onions on top please. Oh, and put a very small piece of lettuce on top to please my parents. Thank you very much”.
As the waiter walked away to place the order, July turned toward her family and said, “You know what? He thinks I am real”.
You may have heard the phrase, “Children should be seen but have no voice”? That phrase is demeaning because it shows kids to be of no or very little worth. And, that is just the opposite of how Jesus saw little children. He saw children as people-as real-who are to be loved and respected as much as any adult. Have you ever wondered why kids become rebellious? It is precisely because their needs are ignored. Jesus wants us to reflect upon the importance of our children and their needs met.
The Beauty of Holy Child and St. Martin is we honor and respect each other regardless of our nationality, age, work and family background. There are great miracles happening in this Church. People are blessed with how we welcome new people in our midst. People are blessed with the warmth and loving spirit that is around us.
I implore you all to continue to be humble in your service to each other because the fruit of humility is love. Let our light shine that people may see our good deeds and glorify God in heaven. That is the secret of good evangelism.
Let us continue to be a warm and welcoming community to everyone. Entertain them and treat them as angels from God. For whatever you have done to them, you have done it also to Jesus. Amen.