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.

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