Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Loving Servitude

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44-45)

Will you let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.
(Verse 1 from The Servant Song by Richard Gillard)

Years ago, one of my nieces, four years old at the time, became enamored of an amethyst ring belonging to her mother. One day the two were sitting together when my niece asked if she could try the ring on. Her mom slipped it off her finger and my niece put it on hers and sat silently admiring it for a moment. Then she turned and said, “Mommy, can I have this ring?” Her mother said, “Well, someday, when I die, it will be yours.” My niece, without batting an eyelash, replied, “Well, can you hurry up and die so I can have it?”

Such sentiments are about what one would expect from a four-year-old. But James and John in today’s Gospel reading don’t seem to have moved much beyond that four-year-old level of comprehension of the world around them or their role in it. Their friend and leader, Jesus, is talking to the disciples for the third time about what will happen to him when they finally arrive in Jerusalem. He warns them that he will be arrested and condemned to death. He will be mocked, spat upon, scourged and executed as a common criminal. He also tells them that he will rise on the third day.

What is James’ and John’s reaction to this? Not horror. Not dread. Not sadness about what lies ahead. Not fear that they might be asked to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Instead they blurt out, can we have the best seats in heaven? Can one of us sit on your right and the other on your left? As Jesus points out, they haven’t got a clue what they’re asking.

After all this time journeying with the Lord, they still don’t understand what his ministry is about, so Jesus lays it out again. “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” No jeweled crown. No pomp and circumstance. Just a life of loving servitude, including death on a cross for you and me.

We may not have the temerity to ask for seats of honor in heaven, but do we actually have any better grasp of the nature of Christian discipleship than James or John? Right in our ministries in our own parishes, don’t we sometimes jockey for power or long for recognition for our efforts? In our workplaces, where we should be quiet witnesses to our faith, aren’t we sometimes rather more preoccupied with climbing the proverbial corporate ladder to more power and more money? In our families, do we teach our children to be loving and caring toward others or do we instead enable them to become conspicuous consumers, always wanting more and more for themselves? Do we reach out and minister to the poor in our midst, or do we look down on them, telling ourselves they ought to learn the language or get a job or whatever else it is we say to ourselves that further marginalizes them?

There are an endless number of opportunities for Christian servanthood waiting for you out there. You could start by thinking of your friends. Are any of them jobless, ill, lonely, grieving? Unobtrusively do something kind for one of them. If all your friends are in good shape, pick up your parish bulletin and look through it. In any given week, you can always find something that needs doing listed there. If you want to go further afield, check the current list of volunteer opportunities for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington at

Last, but not least, check the Arlington Diocese Cursillo website, There is a women’s weekend scheduled for March 17-20 and a men’s weekend April 7-10. Sign up for an hour on one of the palanca clocks to pray for those on the weekend. Send palanca with someone for the weekend. Send in snacks or help with the cooking on a weekend. Plan to come to the mañanita or the closing for one of the weekends. There are many ways in which your service would be appreciated.