A Servant to the Least of Us
Sep 24, 2018
I have been very blessed in my journey of priesthood. My first assignment as a pastor was at Holy Name in South Minneapolis. It was a small failing community with a school that could not be sustained. The neighborhood was changing and although there was a faithful group of parishioners the parish was in negative growth. After five years there I was assigned to St. Bernard’s in St. Paul. It was a very similar community to Holy Name. In both communities we had to go through the process of closing the schools due to the lack of children and the poverty of the area. Living through the death of a parish is painful and as much as I tried to change the trajectory of both parishes I learned that it was up to God, not me.
At St. Bernard’s just as it was at its worst in 2009, refugees from Burma began arriving and they connected themselves to the parish. It was God’s hand at work bringing new life and energy to the parish. They were the little ones who had no standing within the civic community. I would hear the ignorant rant about how they were using up our limited resources and that they offered little to the American experience. All too many complained that most of these folks didn’t speak English and because of that they should not be allowed in the country.
As pastor of the little ones I was transformed. A certain peace began growing in me as I watched God at work caring for his least ones. It was there that I began to realize that God was dwelling here on earth and I began to realize that as I ministered to them I was directly interacting with God. Matthew 25 became real to me as I helped clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison as well as the sick. I had relatives who would come to visit me at St. Bernard’s who wondered why I would stay in such a shabby place. They would ask me what I had done wrong, was I was being punished with this assignment. I would silently accept their criticism all the while thanking God for the opportunities he was giving me.
In the gospel today Jesus challenges his disciples who had been discussing who was the greatest among themselves. He takes a child in his arms and tells them that the one who becomes least of all will be the greatest. I have been truly blessed for through my life this has become a reality for me. All too often we get caught up in the world’s view of success and power, thinking that power and prestige are the signs of greatness, but I have learned through my journey that there is another way, a gentler and more profound pathway: to be with the little ones.