SUNDAY HOMILY: The Call to Selfless Service
We are all called to give ourselves away in love as Jesus did
"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him, and said to him, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory'" (Mark 10: 35-37).
James and John are mistaken. Their outlook is flawed. They are operating from the perspective provided by their fallen human nature, and they are trapped by their own egotism. Christianity is not about earthly reward. Our only reward is eternal life in heaven.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to give ourselves unconditionally to the service of our brothers and sisters. No matter what our state in life may be, we are called to give of ourselves with detachment from all worldly glory. We experience true evangelical freedom when we serve with a spirit of total detachment.
The egotist is saddened when he does not receive recognition for the good that he has done for others. When applause is not heard, when awards are not given, and when attention is not received, the egotist retreats from his good work and fades away in self-pity. Let us remember the words of Jesus: "When you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17: 10).
We all know that people can be very ungrateful for the service that is given to them. How many people thank those who give of themselves unconditionally? Parents, teachers, clergy, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses many times live thankless lives. Nevertheless, the Gospel calls us to give of ourselves unconditionally and seek as our only reward eternal life in heaven. This is true Christianity. Any other posture is simply rooted in egotism.
"Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10: 38). Jesus asks James and John if they can live the Cross? Can you be neglected, forgotten, die to yourself, and never seek praise from others? Can you be submerged in hatred, pain, and even death? The standard of greatness for Christianity is not earthly glory, but the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Even though Jesus demands that his disciples enter into a life of service with a spirit of detachment from earthly reward, it is true that every authentic Christian does receive a foretaste of eternity here on earth when we serve without seeking recompense. The Sacred Scriptures are filled with numerous references regarding the blessings that the just receive when we truly live out our Christian vocation. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (Psalm 1: 3).
Many times we may receive appreciation and thanks from those whom we serve. Birthday celebrations, little expressions of thankfulness, and gifts from grateful people should be seen as noble manifestations of gratitude. However, we must remember the example of Jesus. Only one of the ten lepers returned to give thanks for having been cured. It is important to remember, that despite the ingratitude of humanity, Jesus continued his mission until his consumatum est. His reward was the cross and the empty tomb.
When we serve with a spirit of detachment, we will walk among our brothers and sisters, even among those who have been ungrateful and hateful, with joy and a smile. The disappointments and adversities that others may cause, will purify our interior motives and allow us to focus on eternity.
"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10: 44-45).
Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: sunday homily, homily, father james farfaglia, gospel, service
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