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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
(Part 17)

A LESSON FROM THE ASS


Palm Sunday
March 28, 2010

Today Jesus enters triumphantly into Jerusalem, riding on a colt (Mk 11:7). People cried out: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9).

Today I want to focus not so much on Jesus, but on the colt.

Let us look at what one great saint said. St Peter Claver was a Spanish Jesuit who served the slaves in the Caribbean islands in the early days in the New World. He called himself “the slave of the slaves.” He was bitterly criticized and oppressed by the slave owners. His reply was, “The humble ass is my model. When he is evilly spoken of, he is dumb. Whatever happens he never complains, for he is only an ass. So also must the servant of God be.”

In these few words are some crucial aspects of being a servant.

There is humility. We are not worthy, but God gives us the privilege of doing divine work. We must empty ourselves and allow Him to fill us with His grace and power. We must be laid low so that He can life us up. We must be the last and the least in order to be the first and the greatest.

There is meekness in the face of evil and oppression. The servant of God will always expect to be opposed and vilified. He will be spoken evilly of, even accused of doing the work of the devil (just as Jesus was). He does not retaliate in kind. He does not complain. He remains dumb (that is, silent). He endures and perseveres. He simply continues to do what is right and good.

There is redemptive suffering. He rejoices in suffering for the sake of Christ. He rejoices in the privilege of carrying the cross of Christ. He knows suffering is good for his soul, purifies his being, and helps him grow in holiness. He looks to the suffering of Jesus on the cross and knows that such holy suffering is redemptive.

So when someone vilifies you and calls you a “dumb ass,” rejoice! That person is unknowingly stating a profound truth. He is unknowingly reminding you of whom you are supposed to be as a servant.

Further, if he vilifies you even more by calling you an “asshole” (pardon me), then doubly rejoice. We are not worthy even to be the whole ass, but just a small part of the ass. And it is that part in fact where sh_t (pardon me) passes. We are sinners and compared to the holiness of God we indeed are like stinking human waste. Our works are like dirty rags before Him.

But behold: we still have a very important, nay critical, function. God uses us to help expel waste and filth. Without our proper functioning, the body would soon be terribly sick.

And so it is that according to the eternal plan of God, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a colt or an ass.

“Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” (Zec 9:9)

What an honor! Jesus did not choose a mighty stallion as was befitting a king, but a lowly ass. Jesus indeed is king, but he is the suffering servant. As his servants, we too will do wondrous works in his name, but this will not be cause for pride but for great humility.

So let us ever be mindful:

  • That people are spreading their cloaks on the road for us to walk on, not to honor us but to honor Jesus.
  • That people are shouting their “hosannas” not to us, but to Jesus who is behind us (riding on our backs; being Christ in us who works through us). “Hosanna” means “O Lord grant salvation” in Hebrew. Jesus is the savior and we are but his instruments.
  • That people will bless us only because we come in the name of the Lord.
  • That we are not the ones leading Jesus, but it is he guiding us in the way we are to go.

Jesus is our savior, but he has given us the great privilege of carrying him­his name, his work, his authority, his anointing, his empowerment. We, lowly asses that we are, carry Jesus, as he moves to fulfill God’s plan for the world.

Let us truly rejoice heartily and shout for joy, for the privilege of serving Jesus and carrying him on our backs. As servants of God, just like St Peter Claver, let us have the humble ass as our model.

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