Called to serve
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
During this month of October, the month dedicated to Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, let us ask our Blessed Mother for the Peace of Jesus Christ for our country and the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart in our world! This Sunday, I share with you a teaching on serving as Jesus came to serve. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“To Serve - Christian life consists in imitating Christ: As a disciple before his master, as a child before his mother, so should the Christian be oriented in all his or her activities before Christ. The child learns to speak by listening to the mother. He makes an effort to copy her words and mannerisms. This should be the pattern of our behavior with respect to Jesus. We should imitate His every word and deed. Christian life consists in the imitation of Christ. St. Peter wrote: For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. (1 Pet. 2:21) St. Paul encouraged the first Christians with similar words: Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 2:5) Jesus is the exemplary cause of all holiness, all (out of) love for God the Father. This is not only because of His deeds, but because of His very being. Christ’s way of acting was an external manifestation of His love for and union with the Father.
We grow in holiness not so much by an external imitation of Jesus as by an internal imitation. St. Paul taught the Colossians: …you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature… (Col. 3:9) Through the workings of this daily renewal in our life we should weed out whatever does not conform to Christ’s teachings. We want our feelings and attitudes to resemble more and more what those of Jesus would be in similar circumstances. In this way, our life will become a prolongation of Christ’s life. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29) Divine Grace acts in concert with our free will to make us like to God. We will be Saints if God the Father can say these words of us: This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (Matt. 3:17) Our sanctity, therefore, lies in becoming through Grace what Christ is by Nature: sons of God.
The Lord is our all in all. This tree is for me a plant of eternal salvation. I am fed by it. It satiates me. Through its roots I am deepened and through its branches I am extended. I rejoice at its dew. Its spirit is like a welcome wind that fertilizes me. I have pitched my tent in its shadow. There I have escaped the heat of the day and find cool comfort. Its leaves are my covering. Its fruits are my delight. I freely enjoy these fruits which have been reserved for me from the beginning of time. This tree is my food when I am hungry. It provides my clothing when I am naked. Its leaves are the spirit of life. They have nothing to do with the leaves of the fig tree. When I fear the Lord, He is my protection. In my weakness, He is my strength. When I do battle, He is my prize. When I triumph, He is my trophy. He is for me the straight and narrow path. (St. Hippolytus, Easter Homily) I do not want anything apart from Him.
Jesus teaches us that He has come not to be served but to serve.
How to put this maxim into practice: Today’s Gospel recounts the memorable request which James and John made to Jesus. They wanted to hold places of honor in His kingdom. Their petition provoked a storm of indignation among the Apostles. Jesus took this opportunity to teach the Twelve: Y ou know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (Mark 10:35-45)
Finally, Jesus gives them the greatest reason by far: For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
The Lord repeated this idea on any number of occasions Non veni ministrari sed ministrare. (Matt. 20:8) His whole life was a service to others. His doctrine is a constant appeal to mankind to forget self and live for others. He went throughout Palestine serving each person He met along the way: singulis manus imponens. (Luke 4:40)
Christ’s life and teaching are with us to the present day in the Church and in a special way in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus is ready to serve us, to keep us company with His humility and Grace. On the night before His Passion and Death Jesus emphasized the importance of this message when He washed the feet of His disciples. He urged His closest followers to do the same for their brethren. (cf. John 13:4 ff.)
The Church is the continuation of the salvific mission of Christ in the world. Her very reason for being lies in serving mankind through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments. Sharing the nobles aspirations of men and suffering when she sees them not satisfied, she wishes to help them attain their full flowering, and that is why she offers men what she possesses as her characteristic attribute - a global vision of man and of the human race. (St. Paul VI, Encyclical, Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 13)
As we seek to imitate the Lord we Christians should be ready to give cheerful service to God and other people without expecting anything in return. We should serve even those who do not appreciate our help. Many will not understand our cheerful attitude of self-denial. We should be content in the knowledge that Christ knows full well the efforts we are making on His behalf. The pride of a Christian is precisely in this dimension: to serve as the Master served. Yet we learn now to serve only when we are close to Jesus.
When you start out each day to work by Christ’s side and to look after all those souls who seek Him, remember that there is only one way of doing it: we must turn to the Lord. Only in prayer, and through prayer, do we learn to serve others. (J. Escriva, The Forge, 72) Prayer will give us all the strength and humility we require to serve others.
Serving with joy: Our service to God and others should be characterized by our humility. We can think of ourselves as the little donkey that had the honor of carrying Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem in triumph. (cf. Luke 19:35) We always have to keep in mind the importance of rectitude of intention. In the words of Cardinal Luciani, Later Pope John Paul I: When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature, hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had be-gun - jackass that he was - to bow his thanks left and right like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused! Don’t act the same! (A. Luciani, Illustrissimi, p. 50) We should help others in such a way that they do not even take note of our attentions, if that is possible. Our only compensation will then be the loving glance of Christ. Surely that is the highest payment possible!
The Psalmist encourages us in this regard: Serve the Lord with gladness! (Ps. 99:2) This ideal should be our guide even in the more unpleasant aspects of daily life. Such sacrifices make social and family life much more pleasant. We should resolve to really excel in our spirit of service to others, always with a cheerful disposition.
We will find abundant opportunities to live out our resolution in family life, at the office, among our neighbors… This spirit also includes people we may meet only once in our life. When we behave in this manner we will come to understand that to serve is to reign. (cf. St. John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, 4 March 1979, 21)
We can learn from Our Lady how to be helpful to others, how to have an eye for their needs, how to make their lives pleasant on earth, how to gently point their sights towards Heaven. She gives us the best example: In the middle of the rejoicing at the feast in Cana, only Mary notices that they are short of wine. A soul will notice even the smallest details of service if, like her, it is alive with a passion for helping its neighbor, for God. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 631) When we practice this life of service we will be blessed to find Jesus in our midst. He will tell us: Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, You did it to Me. (Matt. 25:40)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Paul, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Grace to serve Him each day!
In Christ through Mary,