This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45)
There’s silence in the theatre – the play is over. The cast come on stage and the audience erupts into enthusiastic applause which becomes thunderous as the leading actresses walk on to take their bows. It’s been a demanding and emotional play and the two women are exhausted, drained but also somehow deeply fulfilled. Behind their performances lie weeks of hard work, self discipline and commitment. But they are dedicated to their acting and so are willing to give everything in rehearsing and performing.
An athlete runs a 1500 metre race in a world championship. He wins but the effort has drained him of energy and he’s exhausted. Behind his performance lie weeks of hard work, self discipline and commitment But he is dedicated to his running and so is wiling to give everything in training to compete at high levels.
To achieve excellence in any field you have to be prepared to give the time, take on the hard work and dedicate yourself to learning, training and practising. But if you want to act, sing or take up some sport so that you can be rich, famous and admired then you are probably in it for the wrong reasons.
It has to be done for the sake of the thing itself – you can’t dedicate yourself so totally to something that won’t fulfil you or bring you joy as well as pain and exhaustion. The price would be too high.
James and John haven’t yet grasped this relationship between glory and pain. When the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus brought them down to earth with a bump saying “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all”
They didn’t get the message.
When a rich young man couldn’t give up his wealth and follow Jesus, Jesus told the disciples: “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first”.
They didn’t get the message.
Now James and John again make their selfish request and another round of bickering breaks out. Jesus once again, with extraordinary patience in the circumstances, points out what surely by now they should have understood.
The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.
James and John want to be with Jesus in his glory but haven’t grasped what leads to that glory even though they have been with Jesus throughout his ministry and watched him set an example of service to others.
It’s worth reading through Mark’s Gospel up to and including this reading and, with the disciples, see all that Jesus has done: the demands made of his time; the lack of privacy and space to pray; the pace of life and the opposition he encounters. We’ll see the times he is utterly spent and yet keeps on loving and serving.
And through it all we hear him saying to everyone he encounters “What is it you want me to do for you?”
Do we get the message?
If we want to share in Christ’s glory we must serve each other. But there’s danger here! If we go about serving people so that we will share in Christ’s glory then we’re still going to get it wrong.
Our journey of faith is a journey into an ever deepening relationship with the God of Love. Jesus serves others because he loves them, because he cares deeply about their suffering and longs to reach out to heal, to set free and to comfort.
He makes his life, his very self, available to other people, to you, to me, saying “Here I am, what is it you want me to do for you?”
And he asks us to serve others as he serves us, not taking into account what might come of it, not seeking attention and reward but seeking only to pass on the love we have received first from him.
We need to be open to receive the grace and love of God, to allow him to serve us through others. Then we need to give away the love we have received with the same grace and generosity with which it is given to us. And to do that we need to commit ourselves to God.
We are called to make ourselves available to God and to others, to be people who say to others “Here I am, what is it you want me to do for you?”.
We are called not to be served but to serve.
1. Jesus repeatedly teaches his disciples that the way to glory and eternal life is through self-giving service to others.
2. The self-giving service to which God calls us can be costly and painful.
3. Jesus has set us an example to follow and continues to intercede on our behalf.
4. When we are faithful and committed to our loving God we will find, even in pain and suffering, a joy and fulfilment in living as we were always meant to live.
Let us pray to our heavenly Father for the needs of our broken world giving thanks that our Lord Jesus Christ, who has lived among us, is also praying with us and for us.
We pray for all who are disciples of Jesus today. We pray that God’s Holy Spirit will pour into our hearts a love for others that transcends human pride, ambition and selfishness. We pray that we may be true to the example of selfless giving and service shown by Jesus who sought always to heal and restore the broken people of our world.
We pray for the places in this world torn apart by war and terrorism. We pray that where power is used to oppress and control, God’s Holy Spirit will redeem that power to bring freedom to captives and justice for the downtrodden.
We pray for our families and friends, our colleagues and neighbours. We pray that in loving and serving those around us we may be working with God to make the kingdom of heaven a reality in this community,
We pray for all who bear the burdens of pain, bereavement, anxiety and depression. We pray that they may have an awareness of God bearing those burdens with them and always working towards their healing and wholeness.
Heavenly Father we thank you that you are always ready to hear our prayers and to respond to them in ways that sometimes we cannot imagine. We offer ourselves to be part of your response through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour who gave himself in love to serve and redeem us. Amen.