Today Jesus reminds us that a Christian is someone whose baptism has made them a servant. Do we believe that? That the point of our life is to serve him, and all the others sitting in these pews with me – especially the most irritating ones? To the extent that our life is all about us and our comfort, and not about serving God and others, Jesus thus calls us to a renewal of heart, and to repent of that at our next confession.
We hear a lot about servant leadership or servant discipleship, but what does that actually mean? Jesus says, it means serving Jesus first and the others second. Why is it so important to put Jesus first? Because we are only helpful to others to the extent that we are in relationship with Jesus and doing what he asks. Jesus is the co-eternal Son of God – he is the creator, the expression of all truth, love, goodness and beauty. Do we want to give help which is wrong, or unloving or bad or ugly? Of course not. Then, if we want to best help others, the best way is to let Jesus form our consciences and do with us and say through us whatever he wants, so that our help is true help – good and true and perfectly loving.
And this is important to remember when the Pope or pastors of the Church teach things we don’t like. They are servants, and like any good servant they are only as good inasmuch as their are united with the master: our job as their brothers and sisters is not to get them to kowtow to our will, or whatever the latest ideology society might hold, but rather to encourage them to have the courage to stand by their master, and do us all a service by not only teaching the truths of Jesus that some find unpalatable, but to do so in a way which shows how noble, good and useful all Jesus’ teachings are to secular society.
A second point Jesus makes is that servants also do work. Sometimes we can feel surprised that the Church expects me to do more than just go to mass: but the reality is that servant don’t simply spend time getting nourished (like we do at Sunday mass), but rather spend most of their time working. And we know that’s true. Every Sunday, for example, I go to KFC for lunch in honor of the Resurrection. While KFC does not immediately look like the Resurrection – and if my skin looks like that on the Resurrection I will have words with the Manager – but I find that the experience of the sheer mystery of the secret recipe of herbs and spices, and the overflowing of the oil – which is a very biblical image – make KFC a little joyful foretaste of the joys of heaven. But when I go to KFC, I have good reason to expect the employees to be working, and not keeping us waiting because they are preoccupied with their colleague boyfriend, as happened to me recently. Now the Church is far more beautiful than KFC, and so Jesus is far more right to expect us to work to build up the Church.
What is our work? It’s threefold:- to make time everyday for God to make us holy through some kind of prayer; to serve and care for our brothers and sisters in and outside the church, especially the most poor and the most lonely and the most sick; and of course to spread the gospel, by sharing how liberating and helpful it is to be Christian, to pray for and with those far from the Church, and to invite them to try out Sunday mass.
This is one reason Jesus speaks of the mustard seed before telling us we are servants: were your faith the size of a mustard seed – were you doing well the little things you are meant to be doing in daily life – you could say to this mulberry tree “Be uprooted and planted in the sea. “, and it would obey you – you could do big things, even miracles, for those around you who rely on you to provide them. This is why making Jesus the centre of our daily life – be it through daily mass or a longtime prayer or a daily rosary or daily meditation on the word of God, or reading the lives of the saints – is so essential to being authentic to ourselves. These small daily things makes us more like God, and so help us be like God – both miraculous and perfectly wise and loving – in the big things too.