Gospel Reflection for the
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Poor Man Builds a Church
A missionary priest who worked in China years ago tells a true story about someone who knew that God values even our poor little efforts to build his Kingdom.
Yo-San was an old Chinese man, a Christian, who worked in the rice fields and lived alone in poverty in a boat on the river. He came to the missionary one day and said, “Father, wouldn’t it be good if we could have a real church instead of the wooden hut?” “Indeed it would,” the priest answered, “but it will take us a long time to raise the money.” “Father,” said Yo-San, “I would like to pay for the building of a new church.” “Well,” said Father, “I am sure you will be able to contribute your share when the time comes.” But Yo-San insisted, “No – I mean, I want to pay for the whole thing myself.” The missionary explained that this would be impossible, as the cost would be close to the equivalent of $5,000. Yo-San said he knew that, and then produced the actual amount of cash.
The priest was astounded, and Yo-San had to explain. Years ago, when he was a young man just receiving his first instruction in the faith, he had heard a former missionary explaining the words, “Hallowed be Thy Name” – that the purpose of our life is to give glory to God. Hearing this, he conceived the desire to someday build a temple to God’s name. So for forty years, living with no family and no house, eating only a little rice, he had managed to lay aside most of his scanty wages till he had the $5,000.
The priest was even more astounded, and objected to the plan, seeing that Yo-San was old and would soon need the money to support himself when he could no longer work. The old man said that God would take care of him, and begged the Father to grant this life-long desire. The priest consented. The church was built. And it was standing-room-only when the first Mass was celebrated there, all the Christians in the region overjoyed to have a church of their own. After the Mass, Yo-San stayed kneeling in the beautiful little church for a long time. That afternoon he was found lifeless, still kneeling – his heart broken with joy and gratitude. In a dream that night, the missionary saw Christ welcoming the old Chinese man into heaven, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”
Yo-San was a man who understood the real value of offering our poor efforts to God.
[This Illustration was adapted from “Catechism Stories” by Rev. F. H. Drinkwater]
(from ePriest – July 2021)