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(Part 120)


October 23, 2016

Today’s readings:
Sirach 35:12-18
Psalm 34:2-23
2 Timothy 4:6-18
Luke 18:9-14

We are in crucial times, and so the Church is called to the New Evangelization. One important aspect of this call is the emergence of true servant leaders

Today’s readings provide much to expound on this subject. Thus this article will be longer than usual. It will look into important virtues and actions of a true servant leader. Since each aspect can actually be expanded so much more, I am writing this just in bullet or summary form. You expand on the topic.

Take time to read, study, reflect on, and discuss this article in households, in whole or in parts. It is divided into 3 parts: (1) your life in Christ, (2) your life in community, and (3) your work in the world. There are 20 items.

Our life in Christ

#1: Fear of the Lord. “Fear the Lord, you his holy ones” (Ps 34:10a). Be in awe of God, obey Him in everything, be faithful to His call, avoid sin and wrongdoing. Be assured, that “nothing is lacking to those who fear him.” (Ps 34:10b). In fact, we miss out on His blessings because we do not honor, obey and worship God. We go on our own way, according to our own desires, following our own agenda, when God already has the greatest plan for us. But it is up to us, and it begins with fear of the Lord.

#2: Praying without ceasing.[1] “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth.” (Ps 34:2). Pray in your prayer nook every day of course, but beyond that, be in constant communication with God throughout the day, in every situation, be mindful of His presence, submit your every thought and action to Jesus’ lordship.

#3: Trust in God. Your heavenly Father loves you with an eternal love. Jesus died for you. The Holy Spirit gives you wisdom and guides you to salvation. God is there for you. Will He not give you everything else besides?[2] God is just waiting for you. Be not afraid. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, delivered me from all my fears.” (Ps 34:5). God saves you from all distress. “This poor one cried out and the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.” (Ps 34:7). Look to God for consolation and care. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him.” (Ps 34:9). God provides for your needs, and “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Ps 34:11b). God rescues you from the enemy. “And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat.” (2 Tm 4:17c-18a).

#4: Generosity and joy in giving. “Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.” (Sir 35:12). Do not just accept God’s bountiful blessings but not return to Him. First obligation is to tithe,[3] and to do it joyfully.[4] Then there are freewill gifts beyond the tithe, such as love offerings and works of charity.[5] But how about your own needs? Know that God is never outdone in generosity. “For he is a God who always repays and will give back to you sevenfold.”[6] (Sir 35:13). But give to God because of your love for and gratitude to Him, and so you can be an instrument of His generosity to others, especially the poor. It is not a way of getting favors or receiving more material blessings. That would be a fatal mistake. “But offer no bribes; these he does not accept!” (Sir 35:14). And do not give God dirty money.[7] “Do not trust in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion.” (Sir 35:15a).

#5: No self-righteousness. No hypocrisy. Do not be like the Pharisees, “who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” (Lk 18:9). We are all sinners, and only by the grace and mercy of God can we live in Him. So be like the tax collector who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” (Lk 18:13). Unlike the Pharisee in the parable, do not look down on others because you think they are not as pious as you are (Lk 18:11). Do not become proud of your legalistic observance of God’s law (Lk 18:12). Never exalt yourself. Consider yourself the greatest of sinners.[8] Be truly humble, and when God works in and through you, be even more humbled.[9] Be aware of an important spiritual principle: “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14b).

#6: Striving for holiness and Christian perfection. Strive for holiness and find favor with God. “The eyes of the Lord are directed toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.” (Ps 34:16). Strive to be holy as God is holy.[10] Seek to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.[11] God looks to the care of the righteous, and answers their prayers and petitions.[12]

#7: Giving glory only to God. “To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Tm 4:18c). We are nothing apart from God. We can do nothing apart from His grace and provision. But God will enable us to do great things if we strive to be worthy instruments, but we must never grab acclaim or glory for ourselves. That would be foolish and stupid, and bereft of any reality.

Our life in CFC-FFL and the Church

#8: Openness to and desire for God’s teaching. “Come, children,[13] listen to me; I will teach you fear of the Lord.” (Ps 34:12). You are called to live Christ, that is, to be another Christ. It cannot happen unless you learn what that means. So listen to Jesus in prayer and learn from him.[14] Search for God’s wisdom, especially in the Bible. Attend community formation courses. Read and reflect on From the Servant General articles, as well as the SG’s books.[15] Discuss topics in households and learn from one another.

#9: Doing good and not evil. “Turn from evil and do good” (Ps 34:15a). Though we remain sinners, you must resolve to avoid sin and wrongdoing. Whenever you fall, you must repent.[16] Now do not just avoid doing what is evil or bad, but proactively do good. For example, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. As another example, serving community, parish and society. Love as Jesus loves.

#10: Taming your tongue.[17] “Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies.” (Ps 34:14). Do not lie, malign, slander, calumniate, tell half-truths, gossip, misrepresent or twist facts. Remember that Satan is the father of lies.[18] Speak only what is right and just and true.

#11: Being a peacemaker. “Seek peace and pursue it.” (Ps 34:15b). Peace is shalom,[19] that is, being in good relationship with others, as God would have us relate with each other, since we are all His children, and part of His body on earth.[20] Seek to be a peacemaker. Go out of your way to be reconciled. Be a channel of God’s peace. But do not sacrifice truth, justice and authentic peace for just being able to stop a conflict. Even Jesus came not for peace but division.[21]

#12: Being ready for betrayal. Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 chosen apostles. For Paul there were Demas and Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tm 4:10a,14).[22] We too, especially those in top leadership,[23] can expect the same. Betrayal comes due to envy, lust for power and position, personal animosity, and a host of other reasons, which the evil one can easily know and take advantage of. When betrayed, do not give up in disappointment. Continue your good work. Pray for those who oppose and oppress you. Rejoice that you are in the same boat as the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul.

#13: Standing fast and persevering, even if you are the only one left standing. “At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf, but everyone deserted me.” (2 Tm 4:16a). Bear no grudges and nurse no resentments. Such poison only works against you. Pray instead for them. “May it not be held against them!” (2 Tm 4:16b). Stand fast and rely on the Lord’s strength. “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength” (2 Tm 4:17a). In this most important work of the New Evangelization, God will provide for His authentic instruments, such as Paul, “so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (2 Tm 4:17b).

Our mission in the world

#14: Evangelization. Introduce people to Christ. Share Christ so that they might meet and know Christ. Help them to live his way of life, to live Christ. Help integrate them into the Church. “Magnify the Lord with me; and let us exalt his name together.” (Ps 34:4).

#15: Spiritual warfare. When we evangelize we engage in spiritual warfare. We face a powerful foe, much more powerful than we, and that is the devil, the ancient serpent itself. He is assisted by powerful world forces.[24] You will get bruised, bloodied and even martyred. But know that God is on your side! “The Lord’s face is against evildoers to wipe out their memory from the earth.” (Ps 34:17). So keep on fighting. You are already on the winning side.

#16: Work for justice. “For he is a God of justice, who shows no partiality.”[25] (Sir 35:15b). Justice is giving to the other person what is his due. For example, to God is due worship; to our fellowmen respect, to the poor an equitable share of the world’s goods. Be just. Fight for justice. Justice gives birth to peace.

#17: Love and service to the poor. God does show partiality, and that is to the least, the last, the lost. God loves the poor. Our Church has a preferential option for the poor (as we in CFC-FFL also do). “He shows no partiality to the weak but hears the grievance of the oppressed.” (Sir 35:16). The poor are not those who are just lazy or good-for-nothing.[26] Rather, they are poor due to oppression, injustice, corruption. The poor are the widows and the orphans during Jesus’ time.[27] “He does not forsake the cry of the orphan, nor the widow when she pours out her complaint.” (Sir 35:16-17).

#18: Confidence in God through troubles and afflictions. If you are with God and in Him, He will help you out whenever you call out to Him. “The righteous cry out, the Lord hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions.” (Ps 34:18). God will be your consolation in times of sorrow. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed.” (Ps 34:19). You need never be afraid of anything, if you cling to God. “Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Ps 34:20). Endure and persevere.

#19: Reliance on the heavenly armies. God’s angels have been fighting Satan’s demons from the beginning. We of course align with the angels (though many so-called Christians are allayed with the demons). “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he saves them.” (Ps 34:8). St Michael the Archangel is the head of the heavenly host. As such, you can look to him and his angels[28] for help, protection, provision, guidance. They are all around you.

#20: Readiness for the end. Be ready to go anytime! “For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Tm 4:6). Strive to always be in a state of grace. Be ready to face God and make an account of your stewardship. “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tm 4:7). Really look forward to your eternal reward. “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Tm 4:8a). Can you have the confidence of Paul? Are you ready to face your Maker, your Lord, your Master, your Commander-in-Chief? Would that the crown will be awarded by our Lord Jesus Christ “not only to (Paul), but to all who have longed for his appearance.” (2 Tm 4:8b). When your time comes, may God will bring you to heaven. Make your prayer: may the Lord “bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Tm 4:18b).

Servant leaders, you have a hard task, to serve the Lord in the way you are called. That is your responsibility, but your great privilege. Look to these virtues. Look to these standards. And be assured of God’s favor. “The Lord is the redeemer of the souls of his servants; and none are condemned who take refuge in him.” (Ps 34:23).

And to that we say: Amen, and Amen.

* * *

[1] See 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Ephesians 6:18a.
[2] See Romans 8:31-32.
[3] A tithe by definition is 10% of one’s income.
[4] See Sirach 35:11.
[5] See Sirach 35:1-10.
[6] Not necessarily in money or material things, which might not even turn out to be blessings for us, no matter how much we think they will be.
[7] Crooks and corrupt officials give money to the Church, thinking it pays for their sins. Wrong!
[8] Even Paul looked at himself as such. See 1 Timothy 1:15.
[9] Knowing our accomplishments are not through our talents, abilities, experience or resources (though we make use of these), but only as God wills, and due to provision of power from the Spirit.
[10] See 1 Peter 1:15-16.
[11] See Matthew 5:48.
[12] Oftentimes not according to how we would want God to answer them. But of course our Father knows best.
[13] The customary term for students in wisdom literature.
[14] There is much formation in CFC-FFL and teaching in the Catholic Church.
[15] These provide the added benefit of being very much Bible-based, thus pointing out the very important verses in the Bible as applicable to the CFC-FFL life and mission.
[16] And confess your sins to a priest. Immediately if a mortal sin. Whenever you are able if a venial sin.
[17] See James 3:1-12.
[18] See John 8:44.
[19] It is not just the absence of war or conflict or animosity.
[20] Whether the universal Church or individual groups or communities.
[21] See Luke 12:51. Jesus of course is the Prince of Peace and did come to establish messianic peace, but because others will not accept him or his message or his truths, there will be conflict with and division from those who do accept.
[22] Paul also talks of “dangers among false brothers” (2 Cor 11:26).
[23] St Francis of Assisi was betrayed by his two closest confreres who did not want to follow his rule on poverty. They in effect took the community he founded from him.
[24] The US government under Obama, the UN and EU bureaucrats, billionaire depopulationists, anti-family and anti-life groups (foremost is International Planned Parenthood), liberal media, many in the Hollywood entertainment industry, etc.
[25] Showing no partiality in this usage means being just to everyone. But in #17, we see that God shows partiality to the poor. That means a preferential option for the poor.
[26] “Good-for-nothing” is an oft-used expression. But every creation of God is good for something.
[27] They had no one to care for them.
[28] Including your own guardian angel.

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