In the Company of Greatness

February 19, 2008 

“…The greatest among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 23:11)

In C.S. Lewis’ second book of the Chronicles of Narnia entitled “Prince Caspian” (will soon be a motion picture), the true greatness of a leader was highlighted.

In a scene where the lion Aslan asked Caspian if he thinks he was ready to be king, Caspian responded by saying that he honestly thinks he is not. Aslan then told him, “Therefore you are ready to be king”.

I believe that the mark of greatness is humility.

Humble people are those who see their worth only in relation to how much they are valued by their God. Their abilities, gifts, and talents are always subject to His disposal. Their victories and triumphs are always attributed to God. Apart from God, they know that they will not be able to do anything.

Lest I be criticized, let me make it clear that I am not confusing humility with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is not healthy. In fact, it can be very distructive. That is not what I am preaching here. I preach humility which is a trademark of true and genuine servanthood.

Take for instance most of those who became Pope. Most of them do not think they even deserved to be. Many have cried in anguish over the burden that was placed on their backs.

They became priests not for the title but for the service. They chose the priestly vocation  not for the affirmation of men but for the applause of God. That was why many of them were hesitant when chosen to become Popes.

And people who are humble servants, couldn’t help but be great.

In scriptures it says: “…The greatest among you must be your servant…” (Matthew 23:11) 

I was in a meeting last Valentine’s Day with a very humble man of service, great in the eyes of God’s people. I am talking about Socrates Villegas, Bishop of Balanga.

His office was ordinary in as much as his appearance was. He greeted us (there were two of us) with a wide smile and a warm handshake. For some reason, standing before this giant of our faith, I felt my knees weaken. I stooped low to kiss his ring like most of us Catholics would. While he allowed me to do what I did, I felt a slight hesitance on his part because of this gesture.

Our meeting began shortly. It lasted for only about 45 minutes. But it was a blessed forty five minutes. Because in that short span of time, I was in the company of greatness — greatness in the true sense of the word.

This was the same experience many had when Saint Teresa of Calcutta visited UST years ago. They said that she spoke for only less than a minute, but the crowd was in tears. Why? They were in the company of greatness.

This was what I felt in 1995 when I found myself in tears while shouting at the top of my voice as the late Pope John Paul II walked up the stage and waved at me (Yup! I knew he waved at me even though I was part of a crowd of 2Million. I think he even whispered my name!). Why? Because we were in the company of greatness.

Greatness is not about wealth or fame. Greatness is about serving others without counting the cost. And loving others the way Jesus did.

The person you are most with everyday is yourself. And so the question must be asked: Are you in the company of greatness?

I know I am not.

I am self-centered, sinful, arrogant, quick to judge others, pleasure-seeking and full of air. But you know what, recognizing these is essential. Not to wallow in self-pity. But to receive the grace for transformation.

To realize that we have nothing to brag before our God is a prerequisite to humiliy and eventually to greatness. There is nothing to boast about. Not our achievements. Not our grades. Not our paycheck. Not our reputation before men. Not even our good deeds.

If recognizing this is the first step to greatness, then I guess we are on our way there.

I remain, your friend in Christ,

Bobby Q. 

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