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Will people think you were a great person in life?

Leonard Ravenhill tells the story of a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village. They walked by an old man sitting by a fence. In a patronizing way one tourist asked him: “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” In the history of our popes, only two have so far received the title ‘great’. They were not born great but became so in their lives. One was St. Leo the Great who was a great theologian and who reportedly repelled the “Scourge of God”, Attila the Hun. The other was St. Gregory the Great who promoted the welfare of the people of Rome more than the preceding emperors, and who established papal supremacy in the late 6th century. Many people today would like to add Pope St. John Paul II to the list of the “Greats”, but so far this has not happened.

More than likely, these saints would be embarrassed to have such a title added to their names. Like Jesus, who accepted no honorific titles in His lifetime, they might simply call themselves, “Son of Man” or Ben Adam (Son of Adam). Nonetheless, as today’s Scripture readings show, God loves to make great things happen from small beginnings. In the 1st Reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, God says that He will take a tender shoot from the top of a cedar tree and make it become a majestic cedar. And in the Gospel passage, Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God on earth both to a seed that becomes a full-grown fruit-producing plant and to a tiny mustard seed that grows into ‘the largest of plants that gives a home to the birds of the air.’

In the same way, God wishes each one of us to do great things in life. At our birth, He plants within us the seed of divine life so that we can grow into His image and likeness. At our Baptism, He sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that we can become holy as He is holy by following in the footsteps of Jesus His Son. In the 2nd Reading, St. Paul tells us how we are to do this so that we can follow Jesus home to the Father’s house. “We aspire to please Him whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

Each of us can become great in life if we strive to please God the Father each day. We want Him to know and perhaps say about us what He said on the day of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan by John: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” The Father was well pleased with Jesus for many different reasons— reasons which we can learn and accept for ourselves. Obviously, the most important reason was this: Jesus loved the Father above all things and His neighbor as Himself. The second thing Jesus did was to listen to the Father speak in daily prayer. Thirdly, Jesus not only listened to the Father but always put into action whatever the Father asked. “He was obedient to death, even death on a Cross.” Finally, Jesus shared with others not only what the Father told Him but loved others in the very same way that the Father loved Him.

  • What do you or I need to do better to please God the Father?
  • Love Him better and listen to Him more closely in prayer?
  • Obey Him better in what He asks of us?
  • Share with others the Father’s selfless love?

If we please God in these ways, even if no one else knows, He at least will see His greatness in us. Then, we can go home come to sing with all the saints in heaven, “How Great Thou Art”.

Father Kirlin