The following is a homily by husband deacon gave on Sunday, Sept. 23 based on these readings. But with or without the readings, you will understand the message. Posted with his permission.
We all want to be the greatest, the best. The apostles are fighting about who is the greatest as they walk with Jesus. I wonder, what do they want to be the greatest at? The best fisherman or tax collector? Or were they arguing over who was the best apostle? Which really would mean that whoever is the best is the one Jesus would love the most. Isn’t that what we want in our life, no matter how old or young we are, to know that someone loves us the best, that in their eyes we are the greatest.
When we are young, most of us believe that our parents love us the best. After all, they do everything for us; feeding us, keeping us clean, and protecting us. I have a 7-month-old grandson, and he’s at the stage where he really only wants his mother. Even if his father is holding him, if he hears his mother, he looks around until he finds her and waits for her smile. He knows who loves him best.
We want more now, though, since we are a bit older. It takes more than a smile from our mom. And why is that? Because of the world. In the first reading today we get a glimpse of what happens to us in the world. We are tempted to do things and say things and live in ways that are contrary, that go against what God wants for us. The verses tell us that there is an evil one who wants to hurt us. Who is the evil one? It’s the devil. Now the problem with the devil is that when he comes to you he doesn’t announce himself or have a name tag on. He comes in a way that says, “do this and you’ll be the one people think is the greatest.” And the “Do This” is different for each of us: maybe he tells one person to cheat on his English composition to get a good grade, or to buy clothes that we can’t afford, or to use drugs or alcohol to forget our problems. Maybe the devil convinces us it’s okay to make fun of other people or to lie. How do we stand firm against the devil? First, know he exists. Then, stand in the truth; do what is right; and turn to God, because he will take care of you. And why will God take care of you? Because God thinks you are the greatest and loves you best.
In James’ letter, we are told how not to behave. We should not be jealous or think only of ourselves. When we do that it causes problems for ourselves and others. And yet, in the world, it’s all about me. But that is not a new problem since the apostles were arguing about it. The difference is that the apostles eventually realized what it meant to be the greatest by watching Jesus. All the apostles, except John, were martyred, yes killed, often is very painful and brutal ways because they preached the Gospel.
James wants us to rely on the wisdom from God. And we learn that wisdom by reading scripture, coming to Mass, going to Confession. We learn it from people who love us and wants what is best for us.
Jesus tells us that to truly be the greatest, we must be the last and be a servant to all. Does this mean we don’t need to try to do well? No. it means we need to our best in everything we do but to do it for God. It also means that we need to take care of the people around us; especially those God has given to us and our in our lives.
We must take care of each other. We are called to serve as Jesus served. And how did he serve? By giving us his very life so that we can be with him someday in heaven. He gave us our salvation. You see, here is the best thing about Jesus. He didn’t just say love others and serve them. He did it. He did it because his Father asked him to. And we complain when we get asked to take the trash out?
Why did God let Jesus die for us? John 3:16. If you memorize one verse from scripture make it that one. John 3:16, and not because Tim Tebow put it under his eyes or people hold it up on signs at football games. Memorize it because it is truth.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
That is how much God loves you and how much Jesus loves you. But we have a part to play so that we do not perish. We have to resist the devil, we have to stop being selfish, we have to stop wanting things that are not good for us. If you have a tough decision to make or are tempted to do something that is wrong, ask yourself, would God want me to do this? Rely on God’s wisdom, learn to serve others, and remember that God thinks we are the greatest, that God who loves us best.