THE CULTURE OF SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
Readings: Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45.
A week ago, I was at the priestly ordination of my Oblates brothers and before the Mass, I was marveled at the commitment, service and sacrifice of some parishioners towards the success of this event. I had the feeling that this culture were gradually going into extinction among Christians, as some wants to be paid for every pin they pick up from the floor but the volunteers I saw on that day proved me wrong. This is what the liturgy of today awakens in us, the spirit of service and sacrifice as seen in the Gospel of today and as foretold through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading.
The Gospel of today presents to us the request of James and John, the sons of Zebedee to sit at the right and left hand in the glory of Christ. The antecedent to this pericope in Mark is the announcement of the coming passion of Christ. He said, “They were on their way to Jerusalem…” (10:32). Drawing near to Jerusalem, the disciples sensed the danger of their mission, they were afraid but courageously followed Christ to accomplish His mission. Probably they were thinking of Christ establishing a political kingdom in Jerusalem, which had made them earlier on to discuss who would be the greatest among them in Mark 9:33-34. And in spite of the announcement of the coming passion, suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the interests of James and John remained a position of status in an earthly kingdom and so they sought for political appointments in Christ’s administration.
Their request prompted Christ to describe true greatness when He said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave to all.” To be servant is to sacrifice ourselves like a candle burning to give light to others who sit in darkness. As the candle diminishes in the process of illuminating, so it is with our earthly life in sacrifice for the good of others. Practically, our life and mission as Christians is that of sacrifice, in imitation of Christ our Lord. If this is the case, will people ambitiously long for leadership positions or political appointments? Do we have the interest of serving others or is it about our selfish interests? Is our service aimed at gaining popularity, fame or money? Certainly, this happens among society groups and even among priests and religious. In some dioceses with aged Bishops, we hear of some priests aspiring to be the next bishop even before the death of the current one. At times we hear of some religious secretly scheming and campaigning to be superiors of congregations. If this is the case, we may ask: why the struggle for power or leadership positions if truly we intend to serve?
In view of this Christ said, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Real ministry is done for the benefit of those ministered to, not for the benefit of the minister. Sometimes, we find many people in the ministry for what they can receive from their people, instead of what they can give. As a good example for us, Christ gave his life as a ransom, which connotes service and sacrifice, which are only born out of love.
Long before Christ’s service and sacrifice, Isaiah in the first reading had earlier prophesied of Christ the suffering servant, who would be bruised and put to grief. Christ was no victim of circumstance, or at the mercy of any political or military power. It was the plan of the Lord hundreds of years before it happened. In his suffering, passion and death, he performed the most holy sacrifice ever offered to God the Father, and the driving force for this sacrifice is love.
In the second reading, the letter to the Hebrews describes the mission of Christ as the high priest full of love and compassion, able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he had been tested in every way, yet without sin. In humility he lowered himself to our condition as man, experienced our pains and sufferings. This is a demonstration of God’s love, which is the language we are all called to speak and share today.
Reflecting of the culture of service and sacrifice, we recall moments we recognized parishioners that supports the Church financially; we applaud them, visit them, and pray for them in a special ways. What about parishioners that constantly devout their time and talents in cleaning the church premises, the church peels, dressing the alter, rehearsing for long in order to give us befitting liturgy and other simple and humble services they render to the Church? Those that work behind the scene and go unnoticed, do we appreciate or applaud them? Let us keep encouraging those who make effort to serve us and to sacrifice either their time, their talents or their treasures. For those who are not committed to any of these, today’s liturgy demands our service and sacrifice, which could be as altar servers, lectors, catchiest, leaders and members of pious societies/association, it could also be member of an event committee of the parish. Let us not sit back watching the few regular persons doing it but commit ourselves to this demand. We pray to continue this culture in humility as Christ taught us.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ