Sunday, January 15, 2012

Called To Be Servants

Speak, for your servant is listening.  (1 Samuel 3:10b)

On this second Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Roman liturgy for this year, we hear in our Scripture readings about those who are called by God for a special ministry.  In the first Book of Samuel, we hear about the call of the young Samuel who, at first, does not realize that God is calling him to be his spokesman until Eli tells him to listen for the Lord's call.  In the Gospel reading from John, we hear about some of the first disciples who have Jesus pointed out to them by John the Baptist and then go to follow Jesus.

All of us have received a call from God.  The call is not just for Christians but for people of good will in all faith traditions - Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc.  All of us are called to work toward a  more peaceful world in which we can all live together in harmony.  We begin this work in our own homes, within our own families and in our own communities.

In our Christian tradition, we have calls to particular states in life and these are invitations by God to serve him and our sisters and brothers in those states of life.  One of my favorite titles that is given to the Roman Pontiff is Servus Servorum Dei - Servant of the Servants of God.  This title is a reminder to all of us involved in ministry - whether pope, bishop, priest, deacon, vowed religious or lay minister - that our call is to service.  When those of us in ministry become more concerned with our titles and the special recognition that we believe should be ours then we are in trouble.  We begin to lose sight of the fact that we were called to serve others and that should be our most important concern. 

Our model for service is none other than Jesus himself.  All we have to do is to read through the Gospel narratives to see that Jesus' mission was one of wholehearted service to others - the poor, the lame, the blind, the deaf - all those who were in need of hope and healing.  As he himself said:  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)  One of my favorite images of Jesus the Servant was that of his getting to his knees to wash the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.  A task usually carried out by a slave or servant became that of Jesus the Servant.  He instructed his disciples that they, too, (and this includes all of us) should go out and wash each others' feet.  Only then do we really serve our sisters and brothers.  In order to be able to serve effectively, we need to be people of prayer who call upon the Master to give us the strength we need to be good and worthy servants.  When some of his disciples could not bring about certain healings after they had been dispatched by Jesus, they asked him why they could not.  He told them that the kind of healing that was needed could only come "through prayer" (Mark 9:29).

In the Gospel reading for this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, as I noted before, we see the first disciples seeking out Jesus after having him pointed out to them by John.  They asked him where he was staying and he replied by asking them to "come and see."  Jesus is asking us to come and see where he dwells today: in the homeless seeking shelter, in the unemployed looking for work, in women and children who are abused, in the aged and those with terminal illnesses.  We can find Jesus wherever we look to serve - we need to just look.

Dear Jesus, look upon us, your disciples of today, and bless our efforts as we minister to your people.  Help us always be mindful that we are called to serve others and not to be served ourselves.  Give us the strength to carry out your work in a world so much in need of your love and grace.  Help us to see where you live today so that we may spend our time with you until that day when we are with you in the joy of eternal life.  Amen.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rules from God for 2012

The title I have chosen for this post comes from an insert that was in this week's bulletin at my parish church (St. Michael the Archangel in North Greenbush, New York, USA).  I'm not sure of the source but I thank our wonderful parish leader, Sister Katherine Arseneau, for placing it.  I would like to share it with you as my wish for 2012.  The words in italics are my comments on the "rules."

1.   WAKE UP!!  Decide to have a good day.  "Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psalm 118:24)

If you're like me, there are some days when you'd just prefer to stay in bed as you contemplate what may await you in the day ahead.  But each day is given to us as a great gift from our God and we should rejoice that we are able to "wake up" and take part in the work of the Lord in whatever way we are called to.  May each day in this new year be a blessed one for you and let it be an opportunity to again serve the Lord as we are called to do.

2.   DRESS UP!!  The best way to dress up is to put on a smile.  A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.  "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Did you know that it takes more muscles to frown than to smile?  Keeping this in mind, would it not be better to have a smile to greet our neighbors with (even when our day may look bleak ahead)?  I believe there was a song once that went something like this:  Smile and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone.  So my wish for you is that you keep smiling during this new year.

3.   SHUT UP!!  Say nice things and learn to listen.  God gave us two ears and one mouth, so he must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.  "He who guards his lips guards his soul."  (Proverbs 13:3)

We were always told as children that we should never tell anyone to "shut up" as this was impolite.  I believe I once said this to my mother and was disciplined by my father for the outburst.  But maybe we need to say this to ourselves; maybe we need to listen to others with real interest and not just be ready with our own verbiage (as important as we think that is).  May the new year find you listening, especially listening for what God is saying to you.

4.  STAND UP!!  for what you believe in.  Stand for something or you will fall for anything.  "Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good...."  (Galatians 6:9-10)

This is perhaps one of the hardest of these "rules from God"  because we are often afraid to speak up for what we believe in.  We are either afraid of being criticized for being "old fashioned and out of touch" or are fearful of offending someone with whom we disagree.  We can speak up in a way that lets the world know what we believe and why but we can do that without criticizing or condemning those who have opinions other than our own.  May we all be ready this year to speak up for what is good and what the world needs to hear - that God loves each of us with an abiding love and wants all of his earthly creatures to live in harmony.

5.  LOOK UP!!  to the Lord.  "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13)

The world sometimes drags us down to the point that we seem to always be looking downward and trying to avoid the pitfalls that may lay ahead.  While we need to be careful of those, we also need to seek our strength from the One who give us strength by his constant love and support.  May the new year find you receiving the strength you need to meet the obstacles that you may find in your path.

6.  REACH UP!!  for something higher.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge the Lord and he will direct your path."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Sometimes it's hard for us to trust.  We see so many examples in our world of those who betray the trust of others that it gives us pause.  Yet we know that there are people in our lives with whom we can place our trust, the most trustworthy, of course, being the Lord.  May you always find that trusting in the Lord will bring you to a place of peace so that in turn you may offer trust to others.

7.  LIFT UP!!  your prayers.  "Do now worry about anything, instead pray about everything."  (Philippians 4:6)

May this year of 2012 be for all of you a time of hope, peace and love.  My prayer is that all who read this blog may be held in the heart of God and I would only ask that you send a prayer or two heavenward for me so that I may continue the ministry of his word.  May you have a blessed 2012!