By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
When we hear about the greatest people in the world we immediately think about the rich and famous, the most intelligent and successful, the presidents of the world, the Bill Gates types, etc. It’s almost an instinctive activity; when we try to name the greatest people in the world we immediately go for the big names and the top shots in some far distant land, or those inscribed in the history books or promoted by the media.
However, by carefully examining the words of Jesus, who said that “the greatest is the one who serves” (Matt. 22:11; Lk 22:26-27), we discover that it’s very easy to name hundreds of “greatest people” who live in our neighborhoods, our churches, our homes and our families. Jesus gave us a simple but profound definition of greatness: “the greatest is one who serves; the servant of all.” Using this definition, anyone can be named among the greatest because the basic criterion is service. And everyone has the ability to serve.
This should be our Christian understanding of the definition of what constitutes the meaning of “greatest;” it simply means following the teachings of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus gave us an example of service by being at the service of others, and he instructed his disciples to do the same.
Although our world tries to define and lay out criteria for who should be called the “Greatest of All Time,” we must also create our individual list following the criteria of our Lord and teacher. And our simple criteria are summed up in a kind of “service” which may not be recorded in books, but is ingrained in the hearts of those we serve.
What are some examples of activities that can qualify as service? Fortunately, service has no limitations. Bringing up children is service, supporting one’s parents is service, bringing food to the table of the family is service, selling candy to support a cause is service, sweeping the street is service, cleaning the toilets is service, mowing the church lawn is service. Just add your own list of what can be considered service. And Christ says that one who serves is the greatest of all.
Now let me attempt to name my own “greatest people of the world.” My list will include my parents, my schoolteachers, our church janitors, the man who mows my lawn, my nurse, my doctor, the chef in the restaurant, the waiter and waitress, my church members, my friends, my state and national leaders. The list is endless.
Anyone who has offered any service whatever or helped to shape me or make me happy and comfortable — whether paid or unpaid — these are among my greatest people in the world. Can you now name your greatest people in the world?
Many times we seem to forget the generosity and selflessness of the many people around us who help us be who we are or help keep us happy every day. If you’re a server, you are the world’s best. Therefore, in this new year that God’s grace has brought us let’s determine to be among the greatest people in the world by serving one another. Our communities need our services, our friends need us, the world needs us. We serve, not because we want to be named as greatest, but because that is who we are as Christians. And it follows that people who serve are naturally the greatest.
This year will be the best for everyone if we become selfless and place ourselves at the service of one another.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Wylie.