“They’re Gr-r-r-eat!” So Tony the Tiger has proclaimed about Frosted Flakes since 1951. What has made Frosted Flakes the cereal that adults have grown to love, and makes them so great is their sugary frosting. But what makes people great?
Deep down, I think most of us would have to acknowledge that we have a desire for greatness. That is what St. James and St. John were basically asking Jesus for in today’s Gospel reading when they asked to sit, one at His left and the other on His right when He came into His Glory. But what makes us great?
Is it having an extraordinary talent? Many think people like Michael Jordan and Ben Roethlisberger are great because of their exceptional athletic abilities. Many others would describe various singers and actors as great because of their abilities. Others seem to associate greatness with wealth, power or just notoriety — I guess that explains the Kardashian sisters. But is this really greatness; at least from the Christian perspective? Let me share something about a few people whom I think show real greatness.
He was called “papa” by most of the poor living near Mary Help of Christians parish in Sirsiya in southeastern Nepal who had come to depend on the loving presence of Fr. John Prakash Moyalan. His brutal murder was a most painful shock for these villagers. However the profound giving of his life in service to God on their behalf overruled their temptation to seek vengeance. Instead, they decided to forgive the perpetrators, and the village elders took time from their farm work to visit the parish from that day forward, “on call” to protect the priest who remains there. Fr. John lived what we heard in today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, “He gives his life as an offering,” and through his example the people he served have learned to live their lives as an offering. Our own life’s witness should offer others an example of Christ-like strength and His selfless love and compassion.
Margaret Mweshi traces her vocation to the Religious life to a visit she made to a school for disabled children in Zambia, her homeland in Africa. She had heard of the “miracles” that took place there — thanks to the heroic efforts of the nun in charge. Now a Sister herself, she tries to work a few miracles of her own, as she provides medical help and motherly care to children in need at the Cheshire Home. Missionaries serve throughout the world, bringing hope to the poor and suffering — and inspiring us by their faith-filled witness to the Lord.
As Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel reading, true greatness consists in self-sacrifice, in handing ourselves over for the sake of others. All authentic greatness mirrors the greatness of our Heavenly Father whose love always takes the form of mercy.
Today the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday, a day for recognizing the truly great in the Church — those who selflessly give of themselves to help proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through their service to the poor, sick, and neglected. We are the fruits of such greatness. This past Friday we celebrated the North American martyrs, those priests and religious who left the comfort of their lives in Europe to proclaim the Gospel in the wildness. They all suffered privation, hardship, rejection, persecution and martyrdom. Yet their blood was seed for the Faith, as their witness and service brought many to faith in Jesus Christ. Today one of the first fruits of those martyrs will be raised to the altar of the saints as Pope Benedict canonizes St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. The Holy Father will also canonize another American, St. Marianne Cope, a Franciscan Sister from Syracuse, NY who despite the pressing needs of the local community at the time, responded with the zeal of true Christian greatness to a letter from the Hawaiian Islands to send a capable leader to take charge of “our hospitals and even our schools, if it were possible. …Have pity…on our poor sick, help us” She gave her complete affirmation to his request when she learned that the main work was to minister to people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). “I am not afraid of any disease…” was her response to such a perilous invitation.
What about us? Will we respond to this celebration of World Mission Sunday with Christian greatness? Maybe some of you listening are being called to serve God by becoming a missionary. Do not be afraid to respond generously to God’s call. Those not called to be missionaries, are still called to share in the Church’s missionary work. Next weekend at the Pines, and the following weekend in Barnegat, we will hear from a local missionary about how our parish serve by twinning with a parish in Uganda. We can be generous with our treasure, but also with our prayers. We can pray the World Mission Rosary – “embracing the world in prayer” on this World Mission Sunday. Let us also offer support, through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, for the outreach of local priests, religious and lay catechists to our mission family half a world away.
By doing our part in supporting the missionary work of the Church we draw closer to Christ Jesus, so that hopefully when we stand before His judgment seat He will say, “You’re Gr-r-r-eat!”