The Mark of Greatness is Service

10-21-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

In the generation before me, traditional service roles such as maids, butlers, housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks and other assorted household helpers did not pay well. Many other service positions did not either, such as waiter or waitresses, counter servers, hotel workers and variety of other similar type roles. Historically service jobs did not pay well. Today, thank god, some of these positions do pay well. Unions, lack of workers, or a sense of justice at times have changed the salaries of some of these roles. Not all, however, are great paying positions.

What is interesting is that throughout time the word “service” is connected to Jesus. In a sense Christians are called to serve God and others. Jesus thought much more highly of servants and service than of managers and administration. Although the service sector is not very highly regarded in almost all societies of then, through time, and now, Jesus considered these roles as the most important. He was one, a servant. He wants us to follow him as a servant to others.

The first reading is certainly dramatically horrifying. The first words said to us today are: “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” God pleased? People crushed? This is contradictory to the belief that we have a merciful and loving God. This passage is struggling with the issue of near unending suffering. How do we understand or comprehend this? God seems to allow the suffering of the innocent to go on and on, without intervention or relief. The rest of the Sunday readings help us to understand this great agony and question in our lives.

The second reading provides us the insight that when our idea of suffering and our idea of God are in collision and conflict, our idea of God may need to change. We must surrender the constant notion that God reigns in heaven in celestial beauty without feeling the suffering of the innocent, but in fact, is united with the suffering and feels it.

We know from the Gospel stories that the sons of Zebedee were all for winning or besting anyone and did not feel any shame about how they won. The brothers, in a bragging way, boldly assured Jesus that they would stand up to whatever adversity they might have to face in following him on their way to the coveted thrones at the right and left.

Jesus assured them that there would be enough trouble and adversity to go around, but he was not sure about the final rewards. We have here a significant and clear disclosure from Jesus. We presume to give him only the qualities of God, which rob him of his human qualities. He corrects this in this passage. He identifies with his disciples, even these overzealous two. He does not know God’s future plans. These two will share his journey; they will share his reward, but the reward is not his to give. He tells them and us it is the Father’s doing.

Clearly, for Jesus, the mark of greatness is service. The true leader or ruler is the one who has absolutely no throne. The leader is the one who serves, and in the end, who gives his life up for the others. Jesus creates a different vision for them and us. The rich are not powerful. The strong are not superior. The people who are the greatest in the kingdom of Jesus are the ones who serve others. Note how this service is completely from the heart and it is a loving act. Understanding this and accepting this was not easy for the followers way back, or even for us now. It goes against so much in our culture. Yet it is in serving others that we are at our best.

CORI Weekend: This weekend and next weekend are “ANNUAL CORI WEEKENDS.” Please come to the Sacristy after Mass to fill out the forms. Remember you need you MA License for its number. Also, the form is two-sided!! All volunteer service requires a CORI.

Father Brian