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(Part 34)


May 21, 2013

Today’s readings:
Sirach 2:1-11
Psalm 37:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40
Mark 9:30-37

In the world, especially in government and politics, many of those who profess to be public servants are actually those who serve themselves and expect their constituents and subordinates to serve them. They are lords rather than servants. They look to power, position, influence, acclaim, comfort and convenience.

Unfortunately, this also happens in the Church, where leaders are not true servants. They enjoy the trappings of authority and power. While they profess to look to God’s interests, they are also protecting and enhancing their own. While they are supposed to proclaim Christ and his kingdom, they end up proclaiming themselves and securing allegiance of followers to them rather than to Christ and the cause of Christ.

This is not the way of true servant leadership. Perhaps two major truths, if only aspiring leaders knew them, would preclude such false servanthood. Or keep those seeking power, prestige and pleasure away from accepting such roles of service.

The first truth is this: the Christian leader is the least, the last, and the servant of all. Jesus himself made that clear. “In anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk 9:35b). The leader is there to serve his subordinates and others, in the manner of Jesus who took the lowest place when he washed the feet of his disciples. Like Jesus he humbles and empties himself, taking the form of a slave.

If we do not know this truth, then what happens to our service?

  • We insist on our own way and not listen to others, thereby fomenting silent disappointment and even dissent.
  • We feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled when we do not receive adequate thanks for the work we do.
  • We are disappointed when we are not afforded the kind of recognition that we believe we deserve.
  • We are envious of other leaders who seem to be doing better than we are.
  • We let acclaim go to our head.

The second truth is this: there will be trials for a true servant leader. “My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” (Sir 2:1). When we do Jesus’ work, according to Jesus’ way, we can expect to be opposed, oppressed and persecuted, just as he was. We come against a strong enemy who wants to destroy everything that is of God.

  • If we do not know this truth and expect trials as normal, then what happens when such trials come?
  • We become “impetuous in time of adversity.” (Sir 2:2b).
  • We are unable “in periods of humiliation (to) be patient.” (Sir 2:4b).
  • We are greatly discouraged and weaken in our resolve.
  • We become defensive or combative, thus widening rifts with opponents.
  • We lie low from our Christian responsibilities and commitments.
  • We are unable to learn the valuable lessons of Lamentations.
  • We do not thank God for caring enough to send purifying pain into our lives, not knowing that “in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation.” (Sir 2:5).
  • We are unable to live the joy of suffering for the sake of Christ.
  • We blame God and even turn away from Him, rather then “wait for his mercy (and) not stray lest (we) fall.” (Sir 2:7).
  • We do not wait long enough to see the fruit of suffering, since we did not know that we are to “trust in him, and (our) reward will not be lost.” (Sir 2:8).
  • We will not know that “the Lord is compassionate and merciful .... and saves in time of trouble.” (Sir :11).

True servant leadership is difficult and challenging. Because we are the last and servant of all, we can be stepped on and abused. Because there will be trials, we will suffer disappointment and pain, and grieve in lamentations. But wait. Is that not the path of Jesus?

We serve out of love for the Lord, who has loved us first, and who has shown us the way to true servanthood. As we take on this challenging task, we continue to look to God, who is the only one who can comfort our weary souls. And we are always assured:

  • “Trust in the Lord .... and live secure (Ps 37:3).
  • “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.” (Ps 37:4).
  • “The Lord knows the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever. They will not be ashamed when times are bad” (Ps 37:18-19a).
  • “For the Lord loves justice and does not abandon the faithful.” (Ps 37:28)
  • “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, their refuge in a time of distress. The Lord helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because they take refuge in him.” (Ps 37:39-40).

What more do we need? What greater consolation and encouragement could we have? The Lord is already our all. All the more, as we are laid low by humble service and by afflictions, the Lord will raise us up.

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