Sept. 20, 2015 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
When I was in high school, I was a member of one of the top marching bands in the State of Louisiana.
We were not so much a half time show band as we were a competitive band. We participated in several band competitions each year and always wanted to be the Grand Champions.
We truly desired to be the best and were willing to work hard to get there. Our football team was the same. They wanted to go to the State Championship each year.
We wanted to be number one in a world of winners and losers. And in those days only the winners got trophies.
As I’ve grown older I’ve seen another generation raised in a very different way. Every child now gets an award or trophy for just showing up. In my opinion, this social experiment has led to a mediocre generation of self-entitled and self-indulgent people.
In a world where there are no winners and no losers, where there is always a level playing field, who is motivated to excel and become the best or the greatest? Why bother? Everybody gets something for nothing.
On the one hand being number one might not be the thing that makes us the greatest. But on the other hand, being rewarded for being mediocre or even for just showing up won’t make us the greatest either.
I don’t think Jesus is an advocate of one position or the other.
Jesus says if you want to be the greatest you must be the one who serves. Jesus does not measure greatness the same way we do. Jesus measures greatness through service.
If we wish to be the greatest in Jesus’ eyes then we must serve others.
So we must ask ourselves, “How am I serving my neighbor? How am I serving here in this church community? And how am I being of service to my neighbor in the larger civic community?”
The problem with being number one is that it isn’t about serving. It’s about conquering. The problem with expecting a trophy for just showing up is that it isn’t about serving either. It’s about entitlement.
Neither of those two positions focus us on the right issue nor do they point us in the right direction.
Our lives shouldn’t be about rewards and trophies and handouts and entitlements.
Jesus calls us to reach out and serve the least, them most vulnerable, children, the sick, the needy, the poor, those the world looks upon as losers.
In the second reading, James says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there is disorder.” We are seeing that disorder in our society more and more today.
James says, “In your prayer, you ask but you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
You see, when we pray for our football team or our band to win a particular competition, we are actually praying for the wrong thing.
And when we pray to win the lottery but won’t go out to earn our daily bread, we are actually praying for the wrong thing.
In the end, our greatness will not be measures by our trophies. Our greatness will be measured by our service.