Love and service is at the center of our faith and in the teachings of the Church. It is also the main message not only of the Life of Christ, but even of the Law and the teachings of the Prophets in the Old Testament. The law of love and service is the summary of the Divine Law as given to us by God through Moses. No other law is required or needed if only we can abide by the commandment to love and to serve.
So, it is conclusive to think that people who are serious in their Christian life are dreaming to serve God in the best possible way. There are a lot of ways and means to serve Him, but we want to serve Him in the best way we can. To follow Christ more closely simply means loving and serving Him all the more through the people around us.
The best way to serve God is not necessarily to give up everything. The best way to serve God is not necessarily to turn our back on the world and go off to some monasteries. The best way to serve God is not necessarily to spend hours in prayer, contemplating heavenly visions. These ways are passive ways of serving and loving Him but then these ways are equally important just like when we serve and love Him actively and showing that love and service in a more concrete way of showing it.
The best way to serve God is to do something far more basic. The best way to serve God is to reach out in service to our sisters and brothers, especially those less gifted than ourselves. Sad to note, however, that we seem to be going so slow in this one.
Jesus taught his disciples this lesson, saying, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.” This raises an all-important question. How can we translate Jesus’ teaching into action in our lives?
Even as we ask that question, we realize that there is no single answer to it. There are as many answers as there are people. And so, no one can answer the question for us. We must do it ourselves.
How can we, personally, respond to Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel? “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all”
As I have noted, no one can answer that question for us. We must answer it for ourselves. And so, today’s gospel contains an invitation and a challenge.
First, it contains an invitation. It invites us to take inventory of our lives and ask ourselves. What is our own spirit of service in the work we are doing right now—whether we are a parent raising small children or someone involved in office or teaching? What are we doing in our field of work just to be able to give an answer to that invitation? A lot of people today are doing their given tasks, not to help or to serve, but simply doing it because it is their bread and butter. Some are even over-doing it because that had become slaves to money and power and they can go to the point of doing some corrupt practices.
Second, it contains a challenge. It challenges us to take a few minutes off in the week ahead and ask ourselves sincerely. How can we bring to our work a greater spirit of service than what we now have?
We have a work to do knowing that we were created for a particular purpose. The lawyers are there to bring out order and justice to those who need it. Those in the medical practice are there to take good care of the health of their patients. The engineers are given us to build for us roads and bridges and also our homes so we can have a better life and connectivity as brothers and sisters. We have the ordained ministers and the religious to take care of our spiritual needs. And of course, we have our politicians to govern and to bring peace and order to our land and to our people. Sad to note again that we are not perfect in doing our particular tasks and we need to stop awhile and reflect.
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” And He took a little child and put it in their midst. During the time of Christ and even up until this very day, children are a nobody, they are simply nothing. They have no rights, no voice, and they are not even counted as part of the society. Their future lies at the mercy of their parents.
Now, maybe we can say that in order to be counted in His kingdom, we must be a nobody just like the children. In each one of us, there is the adult and the child part. The adult in us is more calculating and security-conscious, goal-oriented and success-driven, ambitious and proud. But the child in us is carefree and daring, more concerned about celebration and cooperation, has less interest on ambition, power and success, and does not think of failure and death. Receiving a child as Jesus teaches simply means to accept the child part of our personality. We do not discard the adult part, but we give chance to the child part to emerge, so that we will be less afraid, less ambitious, but more authentic in our feelings and expressions, and more willing to take the leap of faith to follow Jesus. In this kind of disposition, we learn to let go, and let God!
This is precisely what the Lord is teaching us when he said: “Anyone wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” We should not be afraid to be the last, for we will be the first. We should not be afraid to be the least and the servant of all, for that is the key to true greatness. And let us not be afraid to be like little children, for that is the way to inherit the kingdom of God.