From the Pastor – September 23, 2018

short daily prayersThen he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mk 9:35-37)

What does it mean to be “the best”?  Our American society puts a premium on it. If it’s high school, the best student is the “valedictorian.”  If it’s high school sports, then the best team is the “state champion.” Pro football awards the “Lombardi Trophy” for winning the Super Bowl, and professional baseball gives the “Commissioner’s Trophy” for winning the World Series.  Locally, Gambit Magazine list an annual “Best of New Orleans” with lists of the best restaurants, bars, banks, schools, theater and just about every local food item you can imagine.

But for a Christian, what does it mean to be “the best”? Are you the best if you’re a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Altar Society or the Ladies of Charity? Are you the best if you come to daily Mass, pray the Rosary and attend Adoration and Benediction?  What about if you’ve received an important award from the Archbishop?  Does that make you “the best Catholic”?

Let’s be honest, we all want to be recognized for doing a good job.  We value hard work and dedication, and we admire those who’ve received awards.

But we have to have a long-term approach to being “the best.”  And that long-term approach is the one demonstrated in the lives of the Saints.  (No, not the New Orleans Saints!  I want them to be the best, but they’re going to have to start by winning their first game!)  I’m talking about the Saints in Heaven.  The Saints led lives of heroic virtue on earth, and so they have achieved “ the best” that life has to offer:  Eternal Life in Heaven.

So once again, what does it mean to be “the best.”  Our example is Jesus.  His words and actions today speak directly to the Apostles about what it means to be “the best”:   “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk 9:35)

That’s quite a contradiction.  To be the best, Christ calls us to be the “last”?  To be the best, Christ calls us to be a “servant”?  That’s hard to jibe with our notion of being “the best.”  It’s all a matter of perspective.  Striving for “the best” is striving for the “best things.”  And the best things aren’t found in earthly honors, which are fleeting, but heavenly honors, which last forever.

This weekend, Christ reminds us of his suffering and death.  He “bested” sin and death on the cross.  And we follow his humble example.  Think about it, have you ever said about another person: “he is one of the best people I know”?  If you did, you probably weren’t talking about an award, but rather about the way that person lives his life. louisiana mass times
(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty