To follow Jesus is to embrace the humbling process of serving
I wish to talk to you to today about being called to be a servant of all. In other words, you and I are called to embrace the character and nature of a servant and a slave in the way we live our lives. Jesus set this model for living before us: he gave us the example of 'servant' and 'slave'. He lived as servant and slave in everything he was, said and did during his 33 years earthly ministry.
Reflecting on this matter, two images come to my mind. The first is that of my own parents. Dare I say it, they were utterly selfless.
I cannot remember a single occasion when they put their own interests before those of their children, their wider family, or other people.
Through very difficult times, they worked extremely hard in their business to give their children the best opportunities in life. Little self-interest, only the good of others!
The second picture which comes to mind is of a tiny church on a mountain pass, high in the French Alps where my wife and I stopped during the summer. There were a few attractive wooden buildings by the side of the narrow road, selling cow-bells, cattle and sheep hides, and carved artefacts of Alpine life. But what struck us as we stood there was the beauty, majesty and grandeur of the mountains, and the wonder of God all around. The scene spoke of God, not self!
In the presence of God, we are called to be the servant of every person - from the greatest to the least significant.
The truth here is that every person is great in the sight of God: and every person is deserving of the dignity of being served. You and I are entrusted with an immense responsibility - to be a servant in every life situation, never a dictator! And so, in what I do, in what you do, we are called to infuse everything with the knowledge that we are called to be servants: to seek first God's wisdom, and not pursue ambition which will benefit only self.
In St Mark's Gospel, we are told that Jesus and his Apostles stayed at his house in Capernaum for the last time.
There, Jesus knew that he must summon and instruct the twelve on a crucial and vital matter. He told them that soon he would be handed over to others, he would die, but he would rise again. Then he came to the point: "What", he asked, "were you arguing about on the way?" They were silent. But Jesus was aware that, on the way, they had argued among themselves about which of them was the greatest. It seems they had decided that they were part of a movement, the outcome of which would be pre-eminence for Jesus, and status and power for them. Who among them, therefore, would be the chief-minister?
Aware of the wrong-headedness of their dispute, and the gravity of their error of judgement, Jesus said to them, "Whoever wants to be first among you must be last of all and servant of all". In a short time, their leader would be handed over and forfeit his life - would set his own life at nothing - yet his followers were occupied with human superiority. "Not so," Jesus said. The call is to self-effacement, and service to others!
It is legitimate and understandable to want to be first. But that aspiration and desire is achievable only by one means. Greatness would come only by being servants and slaves.
What matters, Jesus said, is being last of all and servant of all.