Fr. Peter Patrick’s Homily for Sunday, October 17, 2021:
Today’s Sunday readings remind me of the favorite saying of Fr. Jack, one of the beloved pastors at St. Catherine parish: “Here to Stay, Here to Serve.” The meaning of this phrase has profound meaning for us as Christians and Catholics. I have seen parishioners (at both St. Sebastian and St. Catherine) living out this phrase for the last two years I have been the shared pastor. Parishioners are always there to serve in this parish and beyond the Washington Heights neighborhood. As Archbishop Listecki often says, “We are not serving them because they are Catholics, but because we are.” This means we are called to serve others, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they believe. We are called to be Christ to them.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus telling His disciples, “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach His disciples. For example, after John and James requested, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus made clear that, although their request was valid, it’s far more important to be Christ-like to everyone they encounter.
There is a story from “Leadership” magazine written a couple of decades ago by an unknown author. A boy was consistently coming home late from school for no good reason. His parents got tired talking to him about it and seeing no change. Finally, in desperation, the boy’s father sat down and said, “The next time you come home late from school, you are going to be given bread and water for your dinner, and nothing else.” The boy nodded as a sign of understanding.
A few days later, the boy came home even later than usual. The parents said nothing. At the dinner table, however, the boy’s heart sank down to his feet. His parent’s plates were filled with food, but his own plate contained only a single slice of bread and, next to it, a glass of water. He stared at his so-called dinner and said to himself that he was absolutely starving. The father waited for the full impact of his situation to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate and put it in front of the boy.
The boy understood what his father was doing. He took his child’s punishment upon himself. Years later, that same boy recalled the incident saying, “All my life, I have known what God is like by what my father did that night.” What about you and me? Let us live like Christ.