Aug. 9, 2016

The greatest in the kingdom of Heaven

"If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed"

-Edith Stein

We celebrate this saint today, Edith Stein, who chose the name Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross, because of her love for Christ crucified. She gave up everything for Christ including her life when she had an option to escape. Edith Stein wrote a powerful book, "The Science of the Cross" on the profound greatness of the Cross of Christ. She was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholic Jews from the Netherlands to the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers.

As we relfect on the life of Edith Stein, we meditate on the real meaning of greatness. The disciples asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" The answer took them unawares, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven", says Christ. That's some tough task. We live in a world filled with quest for self gratification, competiton for power, ambition for fame and hunger for worldly possessions. We live in a world driven by pursuit for self exaltation and pride. We live in a society characterized by greed. It is difficult to be like little children.

Why be like little children, by the way? The image of children depicts innocence, humility and trust. I once asked a six year old boy, a very good soccer player who played better between him and his older brother. He loked at his brother with empathy, looked back at me and said, "We both play well". That's the child. He didn't want to hurt his brother's feelings. He had to give up something for his brother's sake. 

Saint Edith Stein understood the real meaning of greatness when she embraced Christ. She understood the meaning of being supportive to brothers and sisters until death. Her statement, "If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed", summarizes her priority. She was humble, innocent and sacrificial. These are the traits of a happy family life. They are the keys to greatness. They are the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. 

Let us learn from Edith Stein today the true meaning of greatness. Greatness consists in putting others before me. Greatness lies above all, in having God at the center of my life. She was inspired by Christ who died for us and showed us what it meant to be great. May we be inspired by Edith Stein to recognize the needs of others, the needs of our friends, the needs of our family and the needs of those we meet.

May Saint Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) intercede for us.