Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for Sunday, September 19:

One of the greatest Christians of modern times, Albert Schweitzer, turned his back on the concert halls of Europe to become a missionary doctor to the poor in Africa. He said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who sought and found how to serve.” His words are echoed by Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Love is a one-way street. It always moves away from self in the direction of the other.  Love is the ultimate gift of ourselves to others. When we stop giving we stop loving, when we stop loving we stop growing, and unless we grow we will never attain personal fulfillment; we will never open out to receive the life of God. It is through love we encounter God.”

When I graduated from high school, I volunteered to work in a center for street children in my home parish. The city dump for all of Nairobi was located in the neighborhood that I grew up in. So many families depended on recycling the trash for their living. Due to the high poverty level, many children were not able to attend school, instead going to the dump to collect stuff to recycle to make some money. My first few months working in the center were tough, because the kids in the street had a different way of surviving compared to those whose parents were able to take them to school.  

Every day became tougher and tougher for me as I worked there because I could not see any behavior changes in the kids. I was ready to give up, but before I quit, the director of the center called me. He gave me a piece of advice I will never forget. He told me, if you want to be able to work with these kids, you have to walk in their shoes, not the other way around. I had come to the center with the mentality that I would change the kids, but the more I tried, the more frustrated I became. Walking in their shoes meant sitting back and learning who they were, where they were coming from and why they behaved the way they did. After a couple of months, I started to enjoy working there because I better understood their culture. And without forcing them, I also saw them start to change.

Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach His disciples. In today’s Gospel, when Jesus noticed what His disciples were arguing about, He never condemned them. He taught them how to be great and how to be important in a way that would really count. Think about the position you hold–whether you are a CEO or a janitor– there is a reason why God has placed you where you are. And you should never look down on anyone, because we all need each other.

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