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Who is the greatest?

The story is told about a husband who was seen standing in front of the gate of his house. After some hours, he sat down, and after some time, he lay down. When his neighbor asked him why, his response was: “You see, my wife and I have this agreement that whenever we have a quarrel, one of us should step out of the house. I kept calling her, but she is still arguing with me, so I’ll just stay here, even if it takes a month, until she finally swallows her pride.”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 9:30-37), Jesus chided his disciples who were arguing as to who among them was the greatest. Jesus pointed out that neither one of them was the greatest, and he took the occasion to teach them to be little and be humble like a little child. “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all.”

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It is pride that causes quarrels and divisions. It is pride also that prolongs these unnecessarily. The road of humility leads to freedom and unity. Do you have any troubled or burdensome relationship in your life right now? Be little and be humble like a child, and you’ll experience peace.

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Someone pointed out why we used pencils when we were children, and why we are using ballpens now that we’re grownups. That is to teach children that they can erase whatever wrong they do, and to remind us adults, that we are no longer children, and must not keep on repeating our mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes or bad habits we have as adults is our pride—foolish pride!

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The political “arguing” has begun as to who will be the greatest in the political arena. While we are focused on the big fight ahead, let us allow Jesus to take a child again and place him in our midst to remind us that the elections are not about personalities, but about our people, especially the last, the lost and the least in our midst. May the Lord bless our country with good and able leaders who will not use, abuse, manipulate and trample upon the “little ones.”

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The first and the greatest among you should be the “servant of all.” This is a very clear indication as to who our leaders should be. They should be the servants of all, not the servants of the few and the privileged, not the servants of his/her own family and party and friends. Let us look for leaders who are not only willing but are also free to make a fundamental option for the poor.

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Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. He was a tax collector who left everything and everyone to follow Christ. St. Matthew reminds us that regardless of our past, we can make a decision, a definitive commitment and change of heart and lifestyle. It gives us courage that God calls even the unworthy and the unqualified. Yes, God uses not so much the worthy instrument as the willing and the humble instrument.

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I joined a contemplative retreat with Dom Pachomius San Juan, OSB, recently. It was a beautiful experience of prayer, stillness, silence and simplicity. We also had nutritious and refreshing vegetarian meals and drinks. It was a silent retreat where we had the chance to really listen to God in prayer, in meditation, in chanting, while sitting or walking, and even in our meditative eating. How loud and noisy the world we live in has become, and we hardly have time or make time to really listen to God. Yes, we have become so proud that we seem to have no need for God anymore.

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It is ironical that although we hardly talked to each other, we, retreat participants, felt a strong bond between us because of our common experience with and focus on God. And the deeper we meditated and prayed, the greater became our awareness of people, the world and nature around us.

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The last week of September is a worldwide celebration of National Maritime Week. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the 20th National Seafarers’ Day, in connection with the Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the patron saint of Filipino migrants and workers. Our Filipino migrants, seafarers and workers are the “little ones” who help keep afloat our economy but who often are not acknowledged or appreciated. Please remember that the greatest among us are those who work hard and make sacrifices, and contribute to nation-building, and definitely not those who steal from the coffers of our government!

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Sept. 23 is the Feast of St. Padre Pio, one of our renowned and powerful modern-day saints. Padre Pio lived a life of humility, hiddenness and littleness. He shared in the cross of our Lord, and he diligently ministered to his people. Let us ask Padre Pio to make all of us more humble toward God and to each other. Humility is the key that will open the doors that lock us up and prevent us from really reaching out to God and to each other.

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Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on “How to Prevent Memory Loss.” This will be held at Tuklong ni San Jose, Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Quezon City, on Sept. 26, 9 a.m.-12 noon. For inquiries, please call 373-2262; 998-2548; 0917-4167849.

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to stop arguing as to who is the greatest among us. You are the greatest among us. Amen.

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TAGS: Feast of St. Matthew, Feast of St. Padre Pio, God, Jesus, National Maritime Week, Padre Pio, pride
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