I often hear it said that we live in a busy age. It seems like there is always something going on or somewhere to go. There is a lot of movement. Running from work to school or to take the kids from one activity to another, fixing up the home or trying to find a job. So much goes on each and every day. Many people I speak with often comment about their activity.
Jesus, once again, speaks to us of discipleship as tied to the cross. Last week we heard Jesus speak of his identity as the Messiah being tied to His self-offering. So strong was His point that when Peter began to rebuke him for this Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.”
He then went on to speak of our discipleship as a participation in His passion. He said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
This week, Jesus again predicts His passion and then speaks of discipleship. Today he speaks in terms of service: “Whoever wishes to be first of all must be last of all and servant of all.” Service in discipleship is an imitation of the master. Jesus was a servant through His obedience to the father and in His self-offering to all humankind.
When we give ourselves to others in service we follow the example of Jesus. But even more than that, we participate in His life-giving passion. Sometimes the service is extra-ordinary. We may see opportunities and act on them in works of charity: regular food drives, preparing Aid-for-Friends meals, clothing drives, Giving Trees, working in homeless shelters or food kitchens, volunteering in schools and parishes, and so forth. These are wonderful ways of being “of service” to others.
Today, however, we might also give thought and reflection on some of the more regular day-to-day opportunities to make ourselves “last of all” and “servant of all.” Every day we interact with people: our spouses, families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people we see on the train or bus, people we meet in the store or on the street. Every encounter we have is an opportunity for service. It may seem simple but it is an opportunity for charitable service nonetheless.
When we put ourselves in service to others through kindness and charity we become an instrument of Christ’s love and mercy. A simple uplifting word, a kind smile or greeting, a gesture of friendship or encouragement can go a long way in sharing the Gospel. So many times we might look for the extra-ordinary ways to serve while over-looking the opportunities that daily present themselves.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Morrisville.